Face it! None of us is in this to gain Fans, Followers, Re-Pins, etc. Social media isn’t some popularity contest. We’re in this to make money. Even if you’re a non-profit, you’re using social media to support your cause and donations are a big part of that support. So, CONVERSION is the key to assessing the success of your social media marketing strategy. So, how do you do it? Read on to find out.
What is conversion?
In the image above, from Google Analytics, you can see the conversion rate experienced on your website. Note that in this example, the conversion rate dealt with a completed shopping experience that started when a visitor put a product (or products) into their shopping cart. This is only one type of conversion, however, and only from one source (your website). Obviously, we’re concerned with other types of conversion as they lead to sales over the long run and are just as important to the success of your social media strategy as the actual sale.
If you want to get a clearer picture of conversion, you need to investigate the entire conversion funnel (sometimes called a sales funnel).
Above, you can see a rather complex version of the conversion funnel encompassing all the stages leading to conversion. Let’s take a moment to deconstruct the basic elements of this funnel.
Unless you can attract your target market to engage with you, all is lost. That makes the attraction phase important and it’s in this stage that success in your social media marketing efforts really shines. Although some social platforms, like Facebook, now offer conversion options, the primary goal of social media is to drive your target market to your website where they will ultimately shop for your products and services. Even though smaller businesses might send visitors to a shop on a 3rd party service like Amazon or ask them to visit a physical location, the concept is the same.
First, you want to share messages on social platforms that entice users to consider your offerings. That may sound simple, but it’s more complicated than you might think. Here’s some advice:
- Don’t talk about yourself. Help users solve their problems.
- Entertain users. Let them show off a little. The key to a successful social media marketing program is to focus on customers, not YOU.
- Build positive attitudes about your products. Note in the image below how attitudes impact consumer behavior. Also, note the role of norms and remember that as we’ll return to it later in our discussion.
- Help users identify with your brand. Displaying shared values is one way to get your target market to identify with and trust your brand, resulting in conversions up to 100% higher. Showing that your brand is “for them” is another. For instance, showing images of people who look like your target market and face similar challenges can help users identify with your brand.
- Create engagement with users as a way to spread your message to new users. Due to similarities between those who share your message through liking, commenting, and sharing, and their friends, you not only spread your message to new users but a high percentage of those reached fit with your target market.
This may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many firms just don’t get this. They feel like they’re wasting money if they’re not talking about themselves 100% of the time. Instead, they should be talking about their customer and helping solve their problems 90-95% of the time and only talking about themselves rarely.
Now, let’s return to the notion of subjective norms, commonly interpreted as social norms. As you can see from the earlier image, social norms also impact purchase intentions. Again, the success of your social media strategy greatly impacts social norms by influencing attitudes toward brands. When you view friends commenting and sharing favorable messages about branded products, even something as simple as displaying a product in a shared image, it sends the subtle message that the brand is “good”.
Conversion at this stage may include elements such as:
- Attitudes toward the brand
- Increase in website metrics such as new visits, repeat visits, time on site, decreasing bounce rate
Creating great content
I posted earlier about the secrets to creating great content. The key is to create content with your target market in mind. Don’t spend all your time talking about yourself, as I said earlier. Instead, create content that helps visitors.
Here are some examples of great content ideas:
- explainer videos
- images of your staff, especially when engaged in social action efforts
- seminars and webinars to build community and answer questions
- share your blog posts
- highlight your company’s culture
- share industry news
- post reviews, ratings, and testimonials
- create tips and tricks posts
It’s not enough to attract visitors to your website or store, you must nurture the visitors with content that encourages them toward a sale. For a website or online store, that means creating attractive landing pages with messages that motivate visitors toward a purchase by offering key benefits that appeal to your target market. Often, companies create multiple landing pages not only focusing on specific products but targeting visitors with different needs. According the Hubspot research, websites with 10-15 landing pages perform 55% better than those with fewer landing pages. At a minimum, you need specific landing pages that match any online or offline advertising you have running.
Since you might not convert visitors the first time they visit you, you need concrete plans to follow up with them. That might entail getting an email address so you can send targeted messages via email to encourage subscribers to make a purchase. For instance, you can send suggestions for complementary products if the subscriber made a purchase or offer special pricing to encourage one to complete their purchase when they leave something in their shopping cart. You might send periodic email messages to help build a relationship with a subscriber or to thank a subscriber for a prior purchase. You can send emails to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays.
Remarketing is another form of follow-up. Remarketing works by selectively showing online ads to social media users and those using search engines who visited your website in the past.
Vanity metrics, such as #Fans, #Followers, etc really don’t mean a lot when you talk about conversion. Sure, building a strong community is important — look at the HOGS (Harley Owner’s Group) to see how a committed, loyal following impacts your bottom line. But, I’m not sure that’s what some folks are building on social networks, especially when they use “tricks” like contests to attract Fans or buy Followers. These aren’t engaged users and they DON’T impact your bottom line. They’re a distraction and frankly more of a bother than a benefit to the firm.
Instead, focus on conversions that matter to your bottom line. Engagement is a good conversion metric as it leads to higher sales over time, as explained above. As you can see in the image above, social is a big source of conversion both in the organic and paid form. Here we’re talking about conversion in terms of selling.
But, social media contributes to conversion in other ways, as well. I curated a list of KPIs (key performance indicators) on Listly to help you identify metrics that can lead to conversion over time. Since other users helped build this list, it’s pretty comprehensive.
Fans and followers only matter to the extent they support conversion by amplifying your message, defending your brand, creating user-generated content, and similar engagement outcomes. So, if your highly paid social media firm promises lots of Fans/Followers ask them how much your sales will increase from this increase. And, don’t accept standard figures estimating the average value of a fan. Most I’ve seen are bogus and have NO reality to them.
That doesn’t mean social media doesn’t support conversion. It does. And, social media might produce the highest ROI (Return on Investment) of any marketing tool in your arsenal. But, like any tool, it takes skill and instruction to use it right. I’m convinced that most folks are using it wrong.
Remove impediments to conversion
The average conversion rate for an e-commerce store is only between 2.5 and 3%. That puts a lot of pressure on your brand to optimize your conversion rate as much as possible if you want to succeed.
A good UX contributes to higher conversion rates because visitors can find the content that motivates them to make a purchase more easily and the content flows toward conversion. But CRO (conversion rate optimization) doesn’t stop there.
Thus, you should spend significant effort to reduce any stickiness in your conversion funnel, so the maximum number of visitors flow through the funnel to the thank you page, representing a sale. While this might sound obvious, shopping cart abandonment rates average 70% (the midpoint in studies between observed values of 56% and 81%).
Potential customers might leave your landing page without making a purchase if the information provided isn’t accurate or sufficient to make a purchase decision. For instance, when shopping for a wedding dress, consider the most important decision variables such as price, length, color, and material so you can provide filtering that reduces the cognitive load in making a decision. Try to display no more than 15 options according to a study by Caltech.
Among the factors contributing to shopping cart abandonment are:
- High shipping costs
- Unexpected charges or higher price than expected
- Forced to create an account
- Limited payment options
- Website security concerns
Try to streamline your conversion funnel by removing unnecessary steps to increase the conversion rate. For instance, Amazon offers a 1-click conversion for registered users, resulting in higher conversion rates.
Creating engagement is a critical part of the success of your social media marketing strategy. But, the more I think about it, the key is really being a social business and these tactics help once you’re a social business. Your business should be like the old general store in the small towns where I spent much of my youth. Places where everybody congregated to just talk and the owner knew everyone in town by name. Like Cheers. Heck, they knew your entire life, sometimes better than you did. The owners were real — they were part of the community.
I remember when Barnes and Noble opened and folks thought they were crazy putting in benches, tables, and comfy chairs that invited readers to tarry over a good book. Others were convinced they’d lose all their business because folks would read the books and magazines, rather than buy them. Instead, for a generation, they became the first place folks thought about when they needed a book or just wanted a place to meet friends or hang out for a couple of hours. It was genius until folks decided Amazon was just more convenient.
Tell a good story and folks will fall all over themselves to share it.
As you can see, the success of your social media strategy involves a complex mixture of different marketing efforts that combine seamlessly. That’s not always easy, especially for small businesses.
One way to handle this complexity, is to use automation tools and AI to reduce the amount of effort needed. For instance, you can use a content marketing calendar to get ideas and scheduling down. Then, schedule content using a tool such as Buffer so you don’t interrupt your other work with demands to publish on an optimal schedule. Using AI to create drafts of content and images also reduces the time and effort needed to create fresh content.
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