How to Make Social Conversations Lead to Conversions

How to Make Social Conversations Lead to Conversions

When General Motors pulled out their entire $10 million dollar Facebook advertising budget in 2012, claiming that Facebook advertising does nothing for their bottom-line; the entire marketing world sat up and took notice. While GM's pull out acted as a wake-up call for a lot of brands that were unsure about what social media was really contributing to their balance sheets , it also acted as a wet blanket on the impending Facebook IPO – one of the largest and most awaited IPO in years.

The money and resources being pumped into Facebook and other social media platforms were finally under serious scrutiny and social media platforms had to tighten their belts and show concrete results.

In a study conducted by Brand Republic on Social Media ROI, the largest majority – about 70% – of marketers gave social media credit for increasing brand awareness and making the company more customer-focused. In contrast, only 25% of those surveyed actually saw uplift in sales through social media.

Social Media Results

In spite of all the wishful thinking to the contrary, most social media activity by brands still boils down to either hard sell of their products with traditional marketing ads simply being reposted on social media or endless conversations that serve very little purpose to actual brand objectives.

4 out of 5 Americans visit blogs and Social Media websites. According to the Nielsen Digital Consumer report, 67% of Social Media users access their account at least once every single day.

If social media is such an integral part of your customer's life, isn't it time your brand gets more out of this medium? Let's find out how you can harness this power of social media and move your brand from being a chatty conversationalist to a canny conversion heavy-weight.

Hard sell does not work anymore

With the power of Google (or Bing for that matter) at their fingertips, the average consumer considers herself invincible. You can no longer talk down to them in the way of a used car salesman, simply because often your potential customer knows a lot more than you do about your product or service.

Respect your customer. Help them in their journey of discovering what they really want to buy, with information, support and an ever-so-gentle nudge in the direction of your brand.

No more reposting your print/radio ad or blog post verbatim on Facebook and expecting a thousand likes or shares. It just does not work like that anymore.

Attract – Engage – Delight

Your target audience is already looking out for information sources that help them make purchase decisions. Trouble is yours is not the only brand that they would be considering. Worse, your competitors know that, and will be vying for a share of the customer's wallet as hard as you are.

As a marketer, your job then is to rise above the clutter. Attract their attention with something that is truly exceptional – humor is a common crutch, but anything that stokes human emotions is great to get customers engaged and to genuinely view your brand in a positive light.

This awesome idea by American Greetings got 3 important things right in just one video:

• It was intriguing. "Interviews for The Toughest Job in the World!" Now what could that be?
• It struck a nerve and made you leave your cynicism behind for a few minutes.
• It marketed the brand beautifully at the very end of the video.

No wonder it racked up over 13 million views in just 4 days!

What's the point of all this customer love?

Empirical studies in sales and marketing how that likeability is a huge factor in being considered trustworthy. If your customer likes your brand (not the symbolic Facebook Like, real world like), chances are that they will trust your brand over others.

Since buying is such a self-driven process in the internet age, a customer's trust in your brand translates into actual sales.

Customer testimonials and reviews

Building trust is the key to conversions in the social media milieu. What better way to build trust in your brand than by letting potential customers hear what satisfied past customers have to say about your brand?

According to a study by Econsultancy, 70% of customers trust recommendations from other users while just 14% trust advertising directly from the brand.

Let your customers make up their own minds. Just provide them the right food for thought and watch the sales flow in.

For instance, the Brand Republic study mentioned earlier cites how an online gifting site that used past customer reviews to win new customers on social media. decided to aggressively pursue customer reviews as a means of converting new users. During Christmas 2011, the company's conversion rate for people who interacted with reviews was 171% higher than for people who didn't; customers who interacted with reviews had a 10% higher average order value than customers who did not!

Move from entertainment to infotainment

Now that you've touched a chord in people's hearts, gotten them to genuinely like your brand, won their trust and hopefully scored your first sale, it's time to keep them coming back.

Educate your customers in interesting ways that keep them coming back for more.

• Fun 'how-to' guides
• Tell them about other products that go awesomely well with their original purchase
• Educating customers about alternative ways in which your product can be used
• Inform them about how your brand gives back to the environment / society (whatever floats your boat) and how they can contribute to this worthy cause by buying your brand

Here's a quirky, hilarious, yet educational in-flight instruction video by Air New Zealand that upped the brand's cool ratings by several notches:

Shopify's Ecommerce University has some noteworthy tips on how to make viral videos with a value proposition.

Use social media for lead generation

Social media also is a great resource for reaching out to a potential customer one-on-one. According to InsideView, 61% of US marketers already use Social Media to generate sales leads.

Many savvy sales people use LinkedIn to find out a little more about decision makers and reach out to them. Pinterest is a great way for a home-run arts and crafts business to reach out to crafting enthusiasts. And so on.

Social customer service as a chance to make a sale

With the explosion of social media, making their voice heard – in praise or complaint – has never been this easy for customers.

There's a ton of statistics that prove that not responding to your customer complaints on social media can cost you very dear indeed. While 50% of customers gave a brand only one week to respond to their complaint before switching service providers, a shockingly low 30% of customers actually received responses from brand owners to their tweets!

Brands that do respond to customers on social media leave 83% of customers loving the interaction. If such a large number of customers are gratified when brands hear them on social media, it makes business sense to capitalize on such interactions and positive feelings. Use a satisfied customer service experience on social media to see if your customer is open to another purchase. If you did a good job at solving the customer's problems, more likely than not, they would be receptive.

The Nielsen Paid Social Media study quoted earlier shows that at least 75% of brands spend on paid advertising on social media platforms. These platforms are no longer social hangouts, they have evolved into legitimate media vehicles in their own right.

As a marketer who spends money on a media platform, it is your right to demand metrics that help your business objectives. Here's what the study showed social media owners believe are important v/s what marketers thought were important for seeing conversions:

What Media Sellers Indicate They Use

This shows a clear disconnect between what marketers want and what social media platforms think are important.

However, all is not lost. There are umpteen free and paid analytics tools out there that can be used in combination with built in analytics of social media platforms to track how much social media really adds to your conversions.

Track these metrics obsessively, nurture social media relationships wisely and there is no reason why your social conversations should not result in tangible conversions.

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Rohan creates digital master plans at E2M Solutions for companies seeking advanced search marketing services and helps develop remarkable user experiences at Only Design for startups and ingenious brands. Hit him up on Twitter for a chat.