If you’re relatively new to using social media for business, you may find yourself wondering how all of this works into the sales funnel. There are countless examples of companies who are using social media to make conversions, but some of the giants – Starbucks, Whole Foods, Dell, HubSpot – really stand out.
Does that mean you, as a small business owner, can’t emulate their success? No way! Just because you might not be a major corporation doesn’t mean you can’t take a few tips from them.
Please note: there are any number of really fantastic sales funnels out there. I’ve chosen to use this one from Social Media Examiner, in which case we will look at how social media can be used in the following steps: exposure, influence, engagement, action/conversion, and retention.
This is the simplest step in theory, but it must be done well to have an effect. How can you increase your business’s exposure on social media?
- Make sure you have, at the very least, a Facebook and Twitter account. Also recommended: Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest.
- Fill out the profiles to these accounts entirely – add links to your other social profiles, your website, and your blog.
- Keep these sites updated regularly, but be sure that you’re not posting the exact same thing in three or four different places. Provide some value in following you across several platforms. (Dell does a great job of this – their Facebook is different from their Twitter is different from their Google+).
Don’t overload yourself, but pick a few channels and play them up for maximum impact. You’ll notice that even the major brands do this. Dell, for example, is really active on Facebook, while Whole Foods has been receiving quite a bit of praise recently for their excellent use of Pinterest.
This stage is about having a presence and building your following. So establish yourself and keep at it. Keep in mind that growing a following and exposing them to your brand usually happens slowly (sometimes painfully so), especially if you’re a small business.
Also remember that it’s not the numbers that matter as much as the content and the engagement. In other words, you might only have 200 followers, but if those 200 followers are engaged and interacting with you on a regular basis, that’s still an ideal situation. Numbers will follow, and exposure will increase in kind.
Tip: Don’t forget to include branded items such as default images and Facebook cover photos, for example, to help increase brand awareness. Coca-Cola is really big on posts that feature their brand images, as well.
Kind of a catch-22 here. In order to influence, you must build a following. In order to build a following, you must engage, interact, and be consistent with your exposure efforts (which you must also do to maintain that following). So as you start working through the sales funnel social media-style, you’ll notice that steps 1-3 of this post work together pretty closely.
There’s a lot of debate about social influence. Say the word “Klout” in a room full of people who work in social media and watch the fun begin.
How can you influence, then?
One way is to share great content that begs to be shared. This can be your own content and others’. The key is to do it regularly.
HubSpot (whose Peer Index influence score is 72) does a good job of building influence by sharing content throughout the day about inbound marketing.
Starbucks boasts a Peer Index score of 85. While they’re generally only updating their social channels (namely Facebook and Twitter) once or twice a day, they’re incredibly influential, largely because of their level of interaction with their followers. They provide quality content that engages their community, and then they interact. This means that they’re not just some untouchable social media giant out there somewhere – they’re on level with their current and potential customers, and this helps to build Starbucks’ influence with them.
You’ve got to keep potential customers engaged if you want to make conversions. Engagement works quite closely with influence – the more engaged your potential customers are, the more likely it is that you’re going to influence them to do something. In these top-to-middle stages of the funnel, that “something” is usually clicking on your links and familiarizing themselves with your brand.
Whole Foods is a company that kicks some major butt when it comes to engagement (and they’ve got bragging rights to a whopping Peer Index score of 93). They’re posting relevant and compelling content to their social media channels every day (Twitter is updated most frequently; Facebook is updated one to three times a day). And in between that, they’re replying to comments from people who have engaged with their content. Remember: engagement leads to interaction, and those relationships are what help you to make social media based conversions).
Bear in mind that engagement doesn’t have to equal broadcasting your content throughout the day (unless you’re a news source). Whole Foods knows its customers (and the kind of customers it seeks to attract) and provides the content they want – whether that content comes from Whole Foods or not. Their Pinterest page is a shining example of this – all kinds of healthy lifestyle posts in numerous categories. Though they don’t all come from Whole Foods, they’re all related to the kind of lifestyle that Whole Foods represents. And to keep their customers and prospectives engaged, they invite them to contribute to the Whole Foods pinboards.
This is a big step. How can you make it happen through social media?
First, you must make certain you’ve got the first three steps down to a science and that your targets are not only aware of your brand, but engaged with it.
This step requires that you have used social media to convince potential customers to click from your social profiles to your website. This is going to happen if:
1. You have consistently provided relevant content, or
2. That content has met your potential customers’ needs or solved their problems in some way.
At this point, they’ve seen what you have to offer, and they’re going to dig a little deeper. Be sure that all of your social profiles link to your business site and that your services and products are easy to locate there.
Something else to keep in mind? If you know through regular interaction with prospective customers via social media or other means that you have a number of folks in your following who are late-stage in the funnel, provide content specifically for that demographic.
That is, maybe you devote one Facebook or Google+ post and two or three tweets a day that link to a landing page that will allow these prospects to make the conversions. While social media won’t necessarily be the medium for that conversion, it’s absolutely instrumental in getting them from “out there” to “in here.”
That HubSpot tweet above? It links to a landing page where the potential customer can demo HubSpot.
This is a “late-funnel” tweet. You’ve read about HubSpot. You’ve checked them out on social media, hopefully interacted with them, and now you’re ready to see what, exactly, they can do. You’re already a lead by this point. You’ve been nurtured by way of social media (and, most likely, emails with offers that may be of interest to you). This demo is the final stage of the funnel before making that conversion to a customer.
Though this isn’t where you want to concentrate the bulk of your efforts (it could seem spammy or self-centered to focus on your own brand too much), you do want to to make it a regular habit to provide content for this funnel stage, as well.
Once you’ve got your customers, you don’t want to just leave them hanging. Check in. Keep involved across social media platforms. Is this hard work? Yes. Does it pay off? You bet.
One way to do it: combine your social media efforts with your customer service, a la Dell. Their Dell Cares Twitter account is a great example of a way that you can keep your customers on your radar after the conversion is made.
In closing, it’s completely possible to use social media with the sales funnel. In fact, it’s becoming more and more the norm, these days. If you’re old school, you need to recognize and respect that the funnel is changing to accommodate social media.
On the other hand, if you’re all about it, you need to be prepared for the kind of commitment that it will require. It sounds simple, but it is, in fact, hard work. Nothing sells itself.
What are some businesses that you’ve seen making a great go of it on social media? Let us know!
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