“I’ve got 10,000 likes on my Facebook page,” proudly proclaimed the business owner sitting next to me at the conference lunch I was speaking at. Not a bad start, but as it turns out, not nearly sufficient to translate into sales.
A recent study soon to be featured in the Journal of Marketing Research explores what Facebook likes are worth, and how they translate (or not) into sales and offline action. Author Daniel Mochon, assistant professor of marketing at Tulane University, and his colleagues found that likes alone don’t directly translate into purchases. Instead, the team concluded that to convert social media followers into customers, a business needs to engage them with, wait for it … advertising.
"Most companies think that those social interactions will lead to more customer loyalty and more profitable customers," Mochon said. "That's not necessarily the case. Customers rarely post on a brand's page on their own and typically only see a fraction of a brand's Facebook content unless they are targeted with paid advertising."
The authors of the study proffered that advertising on Facebook is effective for the simple reason that it reaches more of a page’s followers. Since Facebook's algorithm sorts and sifts the content a user sees by their online pattern of preferences, not all posts get placed in a follower’s timeline — unless of course, the business has paid to have that post boosted. In other words, to make sure your followers find your post, you must advertise it to them.
"The results suggest that Facebook pages are most effective when they are used as a form of traditional advertising rather than as a platform for social interactions,” said Janet Schwartz, a co-author of the study.
Beyond advertising, I’ve found that there are four other key ways that a business can increase the odds of converting their social media to customers including:
1. Have a direct call to action.
By placing a specific call to action on your social media site that leads to a dedicated landing page, you can capture more customers. For example: Put a direct link on one of your tweets that links to a devoted landing page with a special offer and/or a promotion code, usually with a limited-time offer. This encourages visitors to not just browse, but click through and buy.
2. Show don’t tell your trustworthiness.
In today’s crowded market, credibility and trust are the core to converting visitors to your social media into customers. Too many businesses I talk to speak generally about why they are trustworthy — instead of showing it specifically. For example: saying, “We are professionals with a great deal of experience,” instead of “We have worked with more than 100 companies in 20 countries around the world including American Express, ATT, Apple and more.”
The bottom line is that trust comes from social proof, such as links to testimonials and endorsements, using known-name customer lists, specific numbers that show how many people you have worked with, proven results, etc. The more you can quantify why you are a trustworthy choice for your customers, the better.
3. Establish your thought leadership through high-quality content.
Social media may get a potential customer interested in you, but it’s often the quality of your content that will close the deal. Blog posts, LinkedIn articles, podcasts, eBooks, white papers and the like can be the difference between someone checking out your Facebook page and moving on, or clicking through and spending their cash with your company.
4. Put a lead-nurturing campaign in place.
Some studies show that it takes an average of 6 to 8 touches to create a viable sales lead. In other words, your potential customer needs to interact with you a multitude of times before they will be ready to buy. A prospect who views your social media and clicks through to your website or a dedicated landing page enters your sales funnel, but may not yet be ready to make a purchase.
To keep them interested and on the path to being a customer, engage them further by setting up a series of “gated content.” These are offers for free high-value content, a complimentary telephone consultation, etc., in exchange for visitors providing their email information.
You can then put a respectful and reasonable campaign in place to nurture those leads through scheduled touch points via email. Warning: Don't spam people by overwhelming them with messages. Less is more, and value is key.
So the next time you are tempted to brag about your big following on social media, stop, and instead elegantly explain how you have achieved engagement through a thoughtful blend of advertising, calls to action, trustworthiness, thought leadership and follow-through. On the other hand, you could just toss off a quick “It’s not about size” quip, and leave it at that.