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.
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING FUNNEL
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”)