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Social Conversions: Taking Step Two

  |  December 17, 2008   |  Comments

When your customer participates in a conversation following a purchase, a new lever has been pulled -- and that can make a big difference to your bottom line.

Sitting at the center of Robert Scoble's social media starfish is conversion. When talking about your commerce pipeline, you'd typically view a conversion as the transition from lead to sale. You can dig in further, too, by focusing on these metrics.

Most conversions can be broken into a series of subconversions, each of which can be measured and tuned. For example, "add to cart" is an important subconversion for an e-commerce site that leads to the "completed purchase" conversion.

Now consider the social feedback cycle: the classic purchase funnel, coupled post-purchase with the social Web. Social conversion is every bit as important as "add to cart." Think of it as "add to conversation." When your customer is sufficiently motivated to participate in a conversation following a purchase, a new lever has been pulled -- and it's one that can make a big difference in the long term.

What can be taken from the classic Web site conversions, including the commerce subset, and applied to a social marketing campaign? From a behavioral perspective, Brian Massey draws the following parallels.

Traditional Conversions

  • Conversion to awareness. This is usually provided by advertising and quantified online by clicks on messages or search ads.

  • Conversion from awareness to consideration. These are the subconversions that occur as your potential customer steps through the process of increasingly refined research into your offer versus competing alternatives, including the alternative of "not buying today."

  • Conversion from consideration to purchase. The first of the big conversions; this is the point at which a prospect becomes a customer.

Social Conversions

  • Conversion from purchase to use. Say what? If someone purchases, then they'll use the product, right? Not necessarily. Consider the freemium (define) business model many Web-based services adopt or the free trials that software manufacturers use. Beyond free, consider that gadget you bought on Amazon six months ago for your home theater that's still in the box, ultimately destined for an eBay listing. If the buyer doesn't use the product, you've missed the opportunity to influence those who would've followed.

  • Conversion from use to opinion. What would make someone talk about your product or service? Your customer must form an opinion and, ideally, a preference for your offering to begin socializing a specific experience.

  • Conversion from opinion to talk. This is the second big conversion: the point at which all of the work you've done in creating something talk-worthy pays off. Providing opportunities -- adding a tell-a-friend widget or connecting to your customer's natural communities -- helps facilitate the expression of genuine opinion in a place where others will hear it. Don't overlook this key aspect to bumping the effectiveness of your traditional conversion efforts.

Making It Work

This all sounds great, but how do you actually do it?

Drawing a parallel between traditional and social marketing, you start with the landing page. Look back at Massey's conversions. The familiar landing page must support one or more of the pre-sale conversions: awareness, consideration, or purchase.

Your home page is your core awareness landing page. It carries a clear value statement about your offering. Consideration landing pages, such as the pages you build to catch specific ads or searches for potential customers in the thinking phase, must offer a specific piece of information that matches a particular thought or need.

Purchase pages are designed to induce and enhance the purchase process. They should include a direct call to action, such as "add to cart." Bazaarvoice has a particularly smart implementation: showing customers what others buying similar items have also purchased is a proven way to increase your average basket size. That's low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked.

Social landing pages function in the same way, but toward a different goal. Instead of aiming at purchase, the social landing page is aimed at use, opinion, and talk.

Your use-phase landing page will provide help, tips, and how-to information. This landing page can be delivered by e-mail or linked to from the confirmation e-mail you send following purchase. Other users' comments can encourage visitors to put your offering into action.

Visits to this page can also be generated from notification e-mail, such as membership verification and shipping confirmation e-mail. These are among the most overlooked opportunities for engaging new product users.

Next up is opinion. An opinion-phase landing page is intended to encourage crystallization within the customer's mind. Offering alternative uses proposed by others may help a customer think, "Yes, that's how I use this," or "No, actually I do this with it." The point here is to create a central understanding of what your customers find valuable about your product in their own words. That way, they can talk about it.

Finally, the talk-phase landing pages. When your customer passes the baton of awareness to subsequent potential customers, where do these new people pick it up? Is your Web site URL easy to remember, repeat, and spell? Do you come up on searches for your category? Are you in popular online sharing sites or communities you've identified that matter to your audience?

If you're present in key places and have clearly told your customers where to send others, you'll enjoy this new boost to awareness conversions as the cycle starts over.

Blogs are ideal talk pages. A blog works on all levels of the user-generated, or post-purchase, phase of the funnel. Blog content that helps a person use a product can encourage the formation of opinion and thereby lead to more talk.

Blogs offer your customers the ability to express themselves. Just as complimentary posts drive purchase, open conversations in which you participate and discuss the limitations of your offering can calm dissatisfied customers. Either way, it's a plus. This same thinking extends to support forums, profile-based communities that you may choose to offer, and your use of other similar social channels that are relevant to your audience.

Conclusion

Think beyond the classic purchase conversion and build your chops around social conversions. Provide post-purchase resources on your site that are intended to help your customers become better ambassadors.

For B2B (define) marketers, think about implementation circles through which small groups of customers help each other make the most of their purchases. The same logic can be applied online, powered by the social Web.

Remember: you don't have to use a social network to do this. By applying the same conversion logic you're already using to the social aspects of your site, you can encourage use, opinion, and talk, often without ever having your customers leave your site or step outside your existing communications program. The tools required are available and are getting easier to use.

One final note: Beginning in January, my writing focus turns to social media. ClickZ columnist Robin Neifield will take over this column, and Brian Massey will contribute to Behavioral Marketing. Be sure to add us to your regular reading list.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Evans

Dave is the VP of social strategy at Lithium. Based in Austin, Dave is also the author of best-selling "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement." Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ, a frequent keynoter, and leads social technology and measurement workshops with the American Marketing Association as well as Social Media Executive Seminars, a C-level business training provider.

Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world: with India's Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin's FG SQUARED and GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. Dave serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase and iGoals.

Prior, Dave was a co-founder of social customer care technology provider Social Dynamx, a product manager with Progressive Insurance, and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994. Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.

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