Marketing, advertising, hiring, logistics, and manufacturing matter, but all efforts are futile without sales. Thankfully, the internet has given small businesses an opportunity to expand their footprint and increase sales volume with thousands of different avenues and strategies.

There is perhaps no more powerful sales tool on the internet than social media. When properly used by businesses and brands, sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest can become effective and profitable sales tools.

Social as a Primary Sales Tool

The challenge with ecommerce selling is that there are so many different angles you can pursue. There's email marketing, content marketing, paid advertising, guest blogging, landing pages, ecommerce sites, SEO, strategic web design, and a slew of other strategies and individual focuses.

The biggest problem is that businesses and marketers get distracted. Instead of putting the emphasis on sales, the focus is spread across multiple different areas. When this happens, a business can easily be stopped in its tracks--as time is spent on low-yielding tasks. The answer to this costly conundrum is to hone in on the sales tools that actually work and do away with the ones that don't.

When put like that, it sounds simple. However, as soon as you begin assessing your own sales data and campaigns, you'll quickly come to the realization that you aren't sure which tools are your best tools. Well, chances are social media will surface somewhere near the top of the list.

According to a Nielson report on social media, Americans spend three times as much time on social networking sites as they do reading email (7.6 percent of online time is spent reading email, while 23 percent is spent on social). Even more eye opening is the revelation that 70 percent of social users shop online. In other words, your online customers are waiting for you on social networking sites. You simply have to find ways to monetize this reality.

5 of the Best Ways to Use Social Media as a Sales Tool

It would be unwise to assume every business can thrive with the same strategies, but many can find success by applying the following tips and tweaking them to fit their existing campaigns and constraints.

Start With Profiles

When customers or users are interested in learning more about your business and what you have to offer, the first thing they'll do is type your name into Google. Whether you like it or not, your Facebook profile will be displayed in one of the first few search results. And because people are familiar with Facebook, that's one of the links they're more likely to click on. Keeping this in mind, you should incorporate links to your website and relevant sales pages. You should also verify that your contact information is correct and encourage users to reach out to you with a friendly and visible CTA.

While you're reviewing your Facebook profile, it's also a good idea to turn your attention to your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. While these won't always attract as much traffic, they will appear in search results and you need to make sure they coordinate with your Facebook page.

You won't gain many direct sales from your profiles, but they serve as an introduction. A poorly developed profile will turn users away, while a well-structured one will gently push them through to the next phase of the conversion funnel.

Drive Traffic to Landing Pages

Some businesses have great success with driving traffic from social media to landing pages and then to a product listing. However, the large majority of social users aren't interested in clicking through multiple pages to make a purchase. They've been trained to respond to quick and easy sales--not long checkout processes. That's why you should consider selling directly from your landing pages.

There are a number of tools, such as Spaces, that let you build on-page shopping carts. This makes buying as simple as a couple of clicks and diminishes the likelihood of users losing interest in your product before purchasing. On the social media side of this, you can prepare users for the sale by letting them know how easy it is to purchase. Furthermore, the more payment options you can offer on the landing page (credit card, PayPal, bank transfer, Bitcoin, etc.), the higher your conversion rates will be.

Perfect the Art of PPC Advertising

You could argue that Facebook advertising is more effective than Google AdWords--at least from a customization and targeting standpoint. While Facebook may not be able to give you the same amount of impressions Google does, the impressions you do get through Facebook will be much more relevant.

Facebook allows you to target based on anything from age and gender to income and spending habits. You can also choose to display ads based on geographical region, personal interests, behaviors, or occupation. The customization options are virtually limitless, allowing you to maximize every dollar you spend. From a pure-sales point of view, PPC advertising is extremely powerful.

Start Using Social Selling Tools

If sales are your focus and you want to sell directly from social media, you may find tools like Shopial or Soldsie helpful. These tools actually turn your profiles into ecommerce-enabled pages where users can make a purchase by leaving a note in a post's comment section. It then syncs up with PayPal or a major ecommerce platform like Shopify or Amazon to complete the transaction. Much like selling directly on a landing page, this method makes the purchase process quick and easy for customers by reducing the number of clicks it takes to follow through.

Use Twitter to Gain Insights and Increase Visibility

Ignore Twitter as a selling tool at your own peril. It's no longer a platform for mindless blurbs of useless information. It has incredible potential and the biggest brands are successfully unlocking that power. "Twitter gives you a glimpse into what your prospects personal life, likes, and interests are," writes Julio Viskovich, a highly respected social selling advisor and strategist. It's your best listening tool and can completely redirect your selling campaigns.

Twitter can also be a powerful visibility-boosting tool if you learn how to appropriately use hashtags. As they become more popular, savvy internet users are using hashtags to search for new products and solutions. Think about what drives customers to your product and incorporate savvy hashtags that naturally fit around that niche.

Putting it All Together

Ultimately, you need to obtain sales any way you can. While social media has many potential uses (including brand building and customer service), it's maximized when it's used as a sales tool. With these five tips, you should be able to bring the focus back to direct selling and enhance your overall sales strategy.

Published on: Jun 2, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.