If you’ve stayed up to date with any news for the past few years, then you shouldn’t be surprised that social media is becoming a huge strategy for companies to engage their customer bases and build brand loyalty.
You probably interact with several brands yourself, whether it’s by “liking” their posts on Facebook or by tweeting them to try to coax a response on Twitter.
Keep in mind, though, that engagement is only half the battle. To run a successful marketing program, you need to develop a strong conversion optimization strategy.
Let’s start with a basic definition
Conversion optimization is the process of transforming new website visitors into customers – and the process of transforming first-time buyers into repeat customers.
Social media is critical to this process. People aren’t always ready to buy when they first visit your website – and even after a great first impression, they’re likely to forget about your brand. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest can help you maintain a connection with prospective customers.
Consider the following analogy
The conversion process is like making a new friend at a friend’s party. You both make a great first impression and decide that you need to hang out or spend time together again – but you run out of time.
After that, you keep running into one another at the grocery store and coffee shops. The exchange is always positive, and you’re always happy to see one another. Eventually, you both realize that you need to put something on the calendar sooner rather than later.
Now let’s get back to the business world. Social media platforms can help you replicate and amplify the dynamic of making a new friend or meeting a potential client.
At the end of the day, “conversion” is just a fancy way of saying “connection.” Here are some invaluable tips for developing a conversion-meets-social media strategy that will work for your company:
1. Get serious about Facebook
I mean, really serious. In a 2012 Edison Research/Arbitron study on social networking habits, 79 percent of consumers said they prefer to connect with brands or products on Facebook. So why wouldn’t you meet them where they’re already hanging out?
People follow the brands they love because they want to know what those brands are doing, when the company is having a sale, and what other new products they have on the way.
So the question is: if you’re a company looking to boost your conversions, how can you leverage Facebook? You see, it’s pretty simple. Facebook users are influenced by their friends. From their own newsfeed, they can see what their friends like and every move they make.
More importantly, because Facebook is visually appealing, there are countless ways to engage your fans through giveaways, photo contests, promotions and paid advertisements.
Find ways to engage your users and then encourage them to share what they’re doing by asking questions and telling them how to engage. From a psychological perspective, make sure that the connection to your brand (and products) are strong. Facebook sharing can turn online promotions into powerful drivers of conversion, which means sales.
2. Encourage Your Fans to Share Socially
To dovetail off of point #1, let’s talk about the power of sharing.
With just one click, users and brands can publicize important on-site events. When your customers buy (or are just about to buy) a brand new sweater, think about how they might be feeling – excited, happy, and ready to spread the word about their great find.
Why not include a “share this” on Facebook and Twitter after the checkout process? Or what about incorporating a “Pin it” button on your company’s product pages?
Most likely, your business already has a “thank you for shopping” page with an email confirmation. Build more excitement by adding share features there as well. You can even implement share buttons on your product page – chances are that your customers will enjoy sharing items they care about.
Here is an example from the product page at J Crew Factory – notice how the retailer incorporates sharing into the overall transaction process:
Not convinced? Turn to the data for guidance:
In the Adobe 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey, Adobe found that social sharing increases conversion rates, with 2 in 5 companies responding that it is “very effective.”
Because customers are much more likely to try a new product or service based on a shared recommendation, help encourage your customers to do so. Include it in their confirmation screen after they have made a purchase, and include it in the confirmation email you send to them.
The bottom line is that you can leverage social sharing to increase conversions through the strategic placement of sharing icons. So, think about where you place these seemingly minimal icons – make sure they’re visible at key transaction moments.
3. Think Mobile. Think Responsive.
Did you know Nielsen found that 95% of tablet shoppers and 72% of smartphone shoppers who make a purchase with their device do it at home? This means that even if there is a computer around, there is a good chance that your customer will be browsing the Internet, Facebook and emails on a tablet or mobile device.
If this isn’t compelling enough, a recent Google study found that 61% of mobile users who have a bad browsing experience will move on from your site to a competitors site.
You need to pay attention to your mobile strategy immediately. Get started with the following checklist:
- Optimize your mobile site’s load times. If it doesn’t load quickly, you’ll lose your customer, and they will move on to your competitor’s site.
- Have large, mobile-friendly buttons that are easy for big fingers. Have you ever tried clicking a tiny button on a mobile site and you miss it? If you hate this, then your customers do too! Make it easy for them. They want to buy your stuff, so help them out!
- Minimize the amount of scrolling a customer has to do. No one likes to scroll.
- Make sure it is easy to access your business contact information. A lot of times users are simply going to your site to figure out where you are or how to get in touch. Keep it simple and accessible.
- “Click to call” access to phone the business.
- Include links to your company’s social media profiles.
So what do these tips have to do with social media?
The short answer: everything.
Of Facebook’s nearly one billion strong users, approximately 200 million are mobile only.
Social media should be heavily emphasized in your website’s mobile design.
If you’re investing the resources in revamping your product or homepages, make sure that Facebook is a part of your strategy. You can even make social media a requirement for logging into your website:
4. Use Analytics
Plan, act, measure, repeat. This workflow underscores the golden rule of marketing – that data should guide your every decision.
Rely on tools like Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, and Mixpanel to track conversions and understand how social media influences your overall conversion strategy. Be relentlessly focused on results, but make sure you’re investigating performance thoroughly.
A common mistake that marketers make is to treat social media as a direct sales channel. Do not fall into this trap. Audiences go through a series of steps before they ultimately convert into leads or buyers. Make sure you’re monitoring this full engagement spectrum before making a judgment call about whether something succeeded or failed.
Photo Credit: KISSmetrics
Your analytics package will answer the question “what.” Make sure that you also dive into the “why” behind the outcomes you’re observing.
A good example is the 2013 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey. UPS joined forces with comScore to find out what consumers really want during their online shopping experience by surveying over 3,000 online shoppers. Of the 88 percent who said they have abandoned a shopping cart, 44 percent said they did so because the delivery time took too long.
So, what does this mean? It means that by shortening your shipping time, there is a great likelihood that your customer will actually buy your products. But you wouldn’t have known this without doing some research. Similarly, your own analytics will tell you key details about your customers.
When you segment traffic sources by social media, don’t assume that a long page view time means that visitors are engaged, for instance. Customers might actually be confused – unable to find the information that they want.
Conversion optimization and social media marketing go hand in hand. A retweet or a Facebook like is a good way to maintain a connection with your potential customers, but it only goes so far. It’s time to start taking social media seriously, measuring what you’re doing, and improving on what you find.