Converting on Facebook: Why Losing Like-Gate Doesn’t Really Matter

  |  August 22, 2014   |  Comments

Marketers must remain user-centric in order to earn conversions on Facebook. Posts that generate the most interaction and engagement will be the ones that see the highest reach.

Social media marketers have been buzzing about the recent change to Facebook's policies banning the practice of "fan-gating." Fan-gating (also more accurately called like-gating) is a common practice used to generate new likes by offering people an incentive for "liking" the page. The incentive might be a discount coupon or valuable content that could only be seen by people after they liked the page. And for lots of companies, the practice was effective.

But few conversion optimization experts would agree that accumulating new page likes is a true conversion metric. Not surprisingly, many marketers have found that the audiences they've built with this practice don't engage with the page after receiving the offer. Making matters worse, Facebook has been reducing the organic reach of Pages, making the number of likes even less effective to marketers. According to a recent study reported in Time magazine, "Even if a person Likes a company ... they're unlikely to naturally see that Page's content in their News Feed."

But this doesn't mean that Facebook has lost its effectiveness as a marketing and conversion tool. Instead, it's a reminder to marketers that remaining user-centric is still one of the best ways to earn the conversion. With the evolving Facebook algorithms, it's clear that the posts that generate the most interaction and engagement are the ones that will see the highest reach.

Facebook Conversions Rely on Interaction

Since you can't control how Facebook manages their algorithms, you need to concentrate on finding the best content mix for your page to engage your fans and drive your conversion rate. As is true for all social media platforms, interactions are the key to driving conversions.

According to a study by the University of Singapore, working with data from more than 14,000 clients of a fashion-industry company, researchers combined purchase data with advanced text-mining tools to determine the emotional tone of text-based interactions and their resulting conversions.

From this data, they concluded:

  • Conversions are impacted more strongly by user-generated content than marketer-generated content
  • Both positive and negative user-generated interactions increased sales if they contained detailed information
  • Direct marketer-generated content had a measurable effect on driving purchases, indirect did not
  • User-generated content was influential via indirect interactions more than direct interactions
  • Direct user-generated content such as reviews transformed products into inelastic commodities, making buyers less sensitive to price
  • Users who liked the Facebook page previous to a purchase had a $22 higher lifetime value over customers who didn't (due to social interactions)

What the study shows is that marketer activity on Facebook should have a single purpose: to generate meaningful and detailed user interactions. If a piece of content is shared but doesn't generate interactions, it is not driving conversions. Content that compels people to interact by answering a question, posting an opinion or sharing a comment is what will lead to conversion.

Improving Social Interaction Rate

Marketers are great at creating content calendars, but it can be more of a challenge to create social content that actually encourages interaction. Shopify suggests that posting surveys or asking questions is a good way to get started. Afraid of what people might say? Research shows you shouldn't be. In fact, both positive and negative customer opinions can improve conversions.

Here are some other tips for increasing engagement and social interaction:

  • Share content that your customers or partners have created
  • Congratulate (and tag) a customer on a success story 
  • Add links to your blog posts as you publish them
  • Post your YouTube videos to your Facebook page
  • Embed your SlideShare presentations on your page
  • Upload photos from company events, cool new products, even staff. Never use stock photos!
  • Get creative with images and use them to showcase testimonials, a brief piece of advice, or other shareable message 

People come to Facebook to build and maintain personal connections, so the more personal you can make your posts, videos, and photos, the more likely they are to inspire engagement.

Engagements, Not Likes, Lead to Conversions

Once you've figured out what content drives the most engagement with your visitors, you can start really optimizing your Facebook messaging strategy. Take a look not just at which posts get comments and shares, but also which ones generate click-throughs. Use these clicks to their fullest potential. If you're linking to a YouTube video, make sure you have an appropriate call to action embedded in the video and description. Likewise for blog posts and SlideShare presentations. Think about the click-path of every post and optimize every step along the way.

Ultimately, improving your Facebook conversion rate isn't up to Facebook and its algorithm. It is wholly dependent on your ability to create content that your customers and prospects want to read, find useful, and are inspired to share. It's about the user experience, not about your marketing and content calendars. Optimize for the user, and the conversions will follow.

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Tim Ash

Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' AttentionWizard.com visual attention prediction tool can be used on a landing page screenshot or mock-up to quickly identify major conversion issues. He has worked with Google, Facebook, American Express, CBS, Sony Music, Universal Studios, Verizon Wireless, Texas Instruments, and Coach.

Tim is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. He is the chairperson of ConversionConference.com, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he's host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm. His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.

He received his B.S. and M.S. during his Ph.D. studies at UC San Diego. Tim is the author of the bestselling book, "Landing Page Optimization."

Connect with Tim on Google+.

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