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How effective is social media converting users into customers?
Marketing professionals like Bob Hoffman and Samuel Scott argue that social media is overrated and, mostly, useless. What is your opinion about its role in the conversion funnel?
I agree with Sandra above that the question is too vague for a simple answer but I do think there is one answer that can be universal for all types of social media marketing: know your audience.
A common mistake among entrepreneurs is attracting or targeting the wrong audience. For example, one of my past clients thought that if they posted content their target audience liked it would increase Facebook followers and website registrations. They did some minor audience research in their region and found out that they like the typical male subjects: sports, memes, and females (i.e. Barstoolsports.com). Although they were successful at increasing their Facebook reach almost none of their followers were resulting in conversions on their website. They attracted an audience that wanted to see funny memes and move on to the next post - they had zero interest in actually registering on the site.
Is that example going to be relevant to all startups? Of course not. The moral of the story is that they doubled-down on one type of content and didn't experiment with different content types or topics. Once we changed the content strategy we started to see more referrals from Facebook and saw a significant increase in organic search traffic.
Is social media worthless? In my opinion, no. But it can be a waste of time if you do not know how to engage with your social media audience.
Hi Justin, thanks for your reply and your insight.
I understand the nuance you have pointed about "forging" the content shared not only about what the audience is looking for but also keeping in mind the business goals. Many followers and clicks mean little when there are no leads and business generated.
Any thought about the importance (or not) of the number of followers and interactions?
The purpose of using social media IS to increase the exposure and brand awareness of your startup. Why would you waste your time writing and publishing content if you were not trying to increase your followers and interactions? In my opinion, one of the main reasons why you want to increase your followers is the viral marketing effect - the more people that follow your company the better chance someone will share a piece of your content that reaches an untapped audience. If you drink Brian Halligan's Kool-Aid (i.e. inbound marketing), you want to attract a specific niche audience with unique niche content - although your follow numbers will not increase at the rate of someone sharing funny cat memes, your followers will be interested in your content and more likely to share it with like-minded individuals.
Quick note: not all social media networks are the same - make sure you are using the right network to reach your target audience. For example, you wouldn't post information on elderly care on Instagram nor would you advertise an economics symposium on Pinterest.
Well, like many things: it depends.
By background, my last startup built online communities for large enterprises (like Dell, Microsoft, Home Depot, Starbucks). We were part of their "social strategy" for how they either supported customers or found new customers.
Here is what we observed:
For the customers we worked with, social media wasn't a great tool for direct selling. Granted, a lot of the SM uses were more for support/customer service ... more long-tail selling by creating a great customer experience or staying engaged with customers.
However, social media was very effective for two things specifically:
People tended to stay tuned to corporate twitter feeds for deals that were offered. Dell, as an example, was crazy successful at this.
2. Growing the funnel
This was always an Excel exercise, but you could directly correlate social media coverage converting into site traffic. And, then there were some metrics used to calculate percentages of site traffic that converted.
Our recommendation was to use SM as an acquisition tool to get them on to the website (ideally into a customer community).
One of those customers told us that people engaged in their "social funnel" spent 20% more than those that didn't. Although, I always thought it was fuzzy math.
My opinion, similar to what Justin said, is that it has some worth. But you need to pick the social channels and offerings that align best with your audience.
Here is an old presentation on this. May be useful.
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