I’ve read a number of articles declaring social media marketing to be overrated. Despite the hype and promise, most brands are struggling. They’re finding that it’s a lot harder to drive conversions on social than they initially thought and on Facebook they’re now being pressured into paying more just to reach the same people they already paid to like their page.
A study from the University of Singapore says it’s because they’re doing it wrong. Their key finding was that conversation is the key to driving social conversions.
Not having more likes. Not tweeting more frequently. Not recycling expertly crafted banner ad copy.
More specifically, the study found that user-generated content converts more than marketer-generated content, information-rich content increased sales whether or not it was positive, negative, or indirect (aimed at somebody else or nobody in particular), and customers who liked the page before buying had a $22 higher lifetime value than customers who didn’t. However, the higher LTV was attributed to being exposed to more interactions (user-generated and marketer-generated), rather than merely by liking the page. A great article by Unbounce goes more in-depth on the study and its findings.
Social networks are, well, social. They’re for dialogue. They’re for content to flow back and forth, spreading more easily than ever before. When looking at social through that context, it’s no surprise that many of the current marketing messages don’t work. Marketers are used to one-way communication-not until the advent of social media could marketers connect and have as close to a two-way relationship with their customers as they do today.
So if conversations are the key to conversions on social, what three things can social marketers do differently to successfully converse with their fans and followers?
1. Facilitate the conversation
As we mentioned earlier, social is for dialogue, and it takes a complete mindset shift to go from monologue to dialogue. Don’t talk at your fans. Talk to them. Ask them questions. They can now respond (which is a good thing!) and engage more deeply with your brand. But also don’t be afraid to get out of the way. In a conversation-centric environment, you no longer are the only voice. Let your fans talk to each other within your brand’s environment because we now know that conversation between fans (user-generated content) drives more conversions than marketer-generated content.
2. Be inspiring enough to build conversation
When you’re a brand in a sea of conversations among friends and family, you absolutely need to add value to break through and even be considered worthwhile. While posting valuable content is often harder than fishing for likes (you can pay for those…but they’re not worth much), you’re the expert in your area, tell them-better yet, show them-something interesting! Red Bull’s Facebook page sparks great conversation among fans by giving them interesting and valuable content-exclusive videos of their favorite BMX biker doing a ridiculous trick or an empowering message about achieving the seemingly impossible. Information-rich content (read: valuable content) may not be the most shareable content, but when it is shared, it converts. Remember, the study showed that no matter the sentiment or even if it was indirect, information-rich content drives more conversions.
3. Be authentic so your fans feel empowered to talk about you
It’s not new that it’s important to be authentic, but when you’re having conversations with customers, it’s more vital than ever. People are getting better at seeing through marketing-speak and filtering it out. On the flip-side, you now have the best avenue to tell your story and develop a deep and significant relationship with your customers. When your brand story resonates with fans, you now have a team of champions sharing your brand to their huge network of peers. That’s effective social marketing.
Start with these three takeaways, use social to converse with your customers, get them talking, and get conversions.