Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel

The billion dollar question – define for me how social media converts sales. Now that social media is getting serious consideration and/or implementation by just about all companies, this is the number one question I am getting asked.

First, let’s get a couple of things straight: 1) Social media is not a sales tool. 2) It is a marketing tool, among other things. It can increase the probability of sale – just like a well planned marketing campaign. It takes a salesperson to complete a sale (usually), but a good social media program produces many qualified leads.

I choose to answer the social media conversion question in the context of the marketing funnel principle. In the simplest form, the marketing funnel looks like this:

Simple Marketing Funnel

There are variations for the marketing funnel, but generally, some “marketing endeavor” creates awareness and interest, and a “salesperson” completes the sale. Ultimate conversion is accomplished by sales, not marketing. The sales force relies on marketing to generate qualified leads.

So now let’s talk about social media and the conversion process. A winning social media plan and implementation delivers greater numbers throughout the marketing funnel AND provides a cyclic capability not experienced elsewhere.


In the diagram above, the marketing Funnel State is shown down the center. The first three states (awareness, consideration, and sale) are the same as in the simple marketing funnel, but social media is one of the best ways to generate awareness and motivate consideration. (I covered an execution scenario in the article “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media”. The steps described to get Attention, Attraction, Affinity, and capture an Audience are an expansion of the funnel states of awareness and consideration.) The next state is the conversion. As mentioned above, conversion is a sales function, not a social media function, not a marketing function. Once again, a good marketing campaign and a good social media program generate awareness and increases qualified leads. They amplify the probability of conversion.

There are two very important additions to the social media marketing funnel – loyalty and advocacy. Social media has the power of making stickier (loyal) customers and turning them into your marketing engine (advocates, referrals). You can reinforce your customers’ purchase decision by engaging in appropriate social media activities. This is the power of social media – the ability to create advocates for your brand – advocates that produce the most compelling marketing of your brand. (See “Using the Social Media “A-path” to Capture Ultimate Customers .“)

The left side of the Social Media Marketing Funnel is labeled Group. This highlights the population before and after a specific funnel state. Yes, the population decreases as you move down the funnel, but social media endeavors produce a feedback loop where promoters spawn awareness, to a new target market population. This continues to be a cyclical program thus increasing the population in every funnel group. Social media is more than a campaign. It is continuous communication and conversations. If you continue to produce valuable information, you will continue to increase awareness, promote loyalty, and motivate advocacy.

The right side of the Social Media Marketing Funnel explains the Individual State or frame of mind of filtered group population after a specific Funnel State. For example, after a population gains some awareness of a brand, some individuals have interest. This is similar to the movement from Attention to Attraction in my A-Path model . There is an evaluation before sale. After a person purchases something and begins using the brand, they form a more complete assessment of the value potentially leading to brand loyalty and even a stronger satisfaction defined. Ultimately, some very happy, loyal customers will turn into advocates (see A-Path model ) and generate word of mouth referrals.

The Social Media Marketing Funnel model provides guidance for systematic implementations. There are two important takeaways here:

1) To begin, your product, service, and/or brand must have true value and differentiation for a target market. No offering will ever be successful unless this is true, independent of social media.
2) Your social media game plan should be designed such that Listening, Conversations, and Relationship building activities (see LCR Mentality) stimulate specific Funnel States (Awareness, Consideration, Loyalty, Advocacy). You can implement social media promotions to motivate conversion and sale, but as I always state, social media implementations aimed to sell most often have negative ramifications. It is best to have your sales team sell.

Bottom line – social media is an excellent vehicle to increase the probability of conversion. You can drive awareness and produce qualified leads. Think about the guidance provided here, listen to your target market, deliver them value, and build relationships. You will see an increase of prospects, customers, repeat customers, and customer promoters.

(Acknowledgement – The content above answers the question I have been asked hundreds of times – “How does social media convert?” The model I have defined here is a social media extension of what Adam H. Cohen termed “The New Marketing Funnel”)



Filed under marketing, marketing plan, sales, sales conversion, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized, Word of Mouth Marketing

9 responses to “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel

  1. Great post, Steve. There’s not nearly enough discussion on this topic, and it’s always valuable IMO to put social media into a business context that people understand.

    I’m particularly glad to see that you’ve called out the importance of advocacy as a new element of the funnel. We’ve been preaching the same gospel for the past two years with our clients. There are also three differences to note about advocacy’s role in the funnel:

    1) Advocacy doesn’t just happen at the end. It happens at all stages. For example, I advocated for several people to get the iPhone well before I bought my first one three months ago.

    2) “Badvocacy” is also an important factor that happens throughout the cycle, from both people who were/are customers and had bad experiences and even some who aren’t customers. On average, we found that badvocates tell 14 people about a bad experience with a brand/product/company.

    3) Advocacy, badvocacy and social media all reinforce that the funnel isn’t quite as linear as most marketers expect. It’s more of an ongoing cycle that moves across different stages fueled by a variety of influences.

    If you’re interested, I cover more ground on this via my “Advocacy, Badvocacy and Upsetting Apple Carts” presentation from Chris Brogan’s Inbound Marketing Summit here:

    Keep on advocating! — Tim

  2. Great post and the model works well in the social media context.

    It’s apparent when talking to friends and colleagues about products and services just how relevant this model is – the ongoing discussions based on attitudes and feelings have a strong influence on others and this in turn affects what goes into the funnel.

    I’d tie this in with an earlier post of yours, about organisations ‘listening’ as well as ‘talking’. What makes social media even more powerful is that unlike traditional campaigns which remain relatively static once kicked off, in this environment, an organisation could quickly pick up on comments, feedback and make adjustments to campaign or potentially to the product or service – a real time ability to improve the funnel or drop-off points.


  3. Fantastic post, Steve. This is a great explanation of what we should and shouldn’t expect from social media engagement, and an excellent way of focusing attention on the unique benefits of the medium. Loyalty and advocacy aren’t really new elements of the funnel (my grandpa was a loyal and vocal Chrysler customer for more than 60 years, and his word of mouth recommendations were frequent and passionate), but social media provide novel tools for generating positive sentiment, responding to negative reactions, and converting customers into advocates. Thanks for focusing attention on this critical aspect in a way that’s easily communicated to business clients.

    • David,

      Thanks for your comments. You are absolutely right … “Loyalty and advocacy aren’t really new” and have been used in exercise for years. But marketers need to have a specific plan to better provoke these functions. While social media is not the first tool set to enable this, it certainly is one of the most powerful.

      Thanks for the input and great dialogue.

      Social Steve

  4. Social media has swung the balance of power in many respects to consumers and end-users, away from companies/suppliers, being that in a nanosecond they can offer the world their spin on a truly horrible experience, or a terrific one, right or wrong, with that company. Social media doesn’t make it right, it just makes it happen.

    I know many organizations that stay up at night worrying about what their customers are saying about them. In some cases, this has proven to be just the kick in the pants they needed to clean up their acts; in others, there is clearly the case of the”poison pen” from some customers with an “agenda.” Either way, social media is a powerful advocacy, badvocacy (don’t like that word but it follows the earlier posts), and awareness tool that serves a purpose, and that purpose depends on which side of the issue you are on.

    We’ve gone from town-criers, to pony express, to newspapers and phones, to social media. The evolution continues, but many of the messages are the same — it’s just a lot quicker and in the hands of the buyers now more than ever.
    Truly, a tiger by the tail.

    • Gary –

      Thanks for your input. Excellent points. I would just add that companies need to “influence” what is being said by being active and having conversations in social media platforms as opposed to standing back and just letting the conversations flow without their participation.

      Social Steve

  5. Pingback: A New Approach To The Marketing Funnel | The Adaptive Marketer

  6. Pingback: Practicing What I Preach in Social Media « SocialSteve's Blog

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