The words “social media conversion optimization” don’t necessarily flow off the tongue.
You’re far more accustomed to hearing “social media engagement” or “social media reach.”
But conversion is the core of all marketing activity, so in our latest article we explore how to use social media to increase your marketing conversion.
Read on to learn from 11 case studies as we explore how to increase conversion of social media actions (like, follow, etc.) as well as how to use social media to increase the conversion of key business goals (leads, purchases, etc.).
by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute
(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing newsletter. Click to get a free email subscription to the latest from MarketingSherpa.)
To talk about using social media to increase the conversion rate of your marketing, first we really need to talk about the totality of human existence.
There’s organic food. That’s a thing. There’s public transportation, many people are riding on it while you read these words.
There are hugs. Aren’t hugs great?
There is social media, right? It is one of the many things in existence.
There’s a cat named Nala who is releasing a book. I sure hope she has a ghostwriter. Otherwise, it will start getting redundant after the first chapter. “Meow. Meow meow meow. Meow meow …”
There’s your product. That is also a thing that exists. (And I’m sure it is fantastic.)
And there’s a whole lot of other stuff that exists as well. I don’t have time to list it all here, but if you’re unaware of it, look me up on social media and I’ll explain it to you.
Which means your customers’ priorities essentially amount to the chart on the left in the below image. Their focus isn’t your product, right?
However, your focus essentially looks like the chart on the right below. Your salary, your lifestyle, paying your mortgage, being able to order from Uber Eats, it all stems from selling your product.
Okay, maybe you’re not that big of a keener. On a summer Friday, it might look more like this.
This is the marketer’s blind spot.
It may seem obvious when we step back and talk about it. But that’s the problem. We often don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in your day, caught up in the cycle of your year, and be so utterly focused on your product that you overlook what’s on the other end of your Twitter post or Facebook ad — people who have so much more going on. People viewing organic food pics on Instagram or tweeting a selfie on public transportation or sharing cat book memes on Facebook.
I’ll go a step further. Not only is your product not their priority, social media isn’t either. Not really. Sure, we’ve all seen the usage statistics, people do spend plenty of time on social networks. But it’s not a priority for them. They’re not thinking about it like we are. It’s an afterthought while they’re doing other stuff.
I mean, look at yourself right now. You’re reading an article about how to more successfully use social media. Do you think there is some other article right now being read by a lot of customers about how to use social media better? Not likely. What would they even read about? “First, scan your feed to learn about your friends and neighbors’ vacations. Then take out a loan to go on a better vacation than them. Make sure to get selfies in front of photogenic landmarks and post them when you get back.”
Customers just don’t take it that seriously. And this is the fundamental disconnect we as marketers must overcome.
Here is a tool we use to help bridge that gap — between the marketer and the customer, between you and the other. The Conversion Sequence Heuristic is part of a patented, repeatable methodology (patent number 8,155,995) developed by Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa), based on years of testing and research of real product and service offers presented to real customers.
It is meant to be a customer-first methodology that helps marketers stop and think about the elements they can change or tap into to better serve and connect with the customer and thus, increase the likelihood of conversion. Some marketers post it to their office or cubicle wall as a constant reminder of how they can impact the customer, a continuous attempt to overcome their blind spot.
You might be most familiar with its application to landing pages. It is probably best known for being the core of MECLABS Landing Page Optimization on-demand certification course. But it applies equally well to increasing the probability of any conversion. So let’s walk step-by-step through it to see you can use this tool to improve your social media marketing — both to increase conversion of social media actions (like, follow, etc.) as well as how to use social media to increase the conversion of key business goals (leads, purchases, etc.).
A major customer motivation on social media is to get coupons/promotions
The “m” in the heuristic refers to the motivation of the user. As you can see, it has the largest co-efficient in front of it — “4” — because motivation has the highest impact on the probability of conversion. Your focus shouldn’t be to change someone’s motivation, but rather tap into the people with the right motivations for the conversion goals you have. When we're talking about motivation, we don't mean the "right" motivations, like, are they good or evil. We mean, what naturally drives them? What are they interested in? If you can tap into those motivations, you will be more effective with your marketing.
According to research we conducted with a representative sample of 2,021 U.S. consumers, the top motivation all age groups have for following a brand on social media is “I want to get regular coupons/promotions.”
But there can be a disconnect. Marketers are sometimes wary to tap into this motivation.
For example, Dr. Lauri Baker and Scott Stebner researched the use of social media by garden centers. “All of the [garden center] employees and owners I interviewed said they were very hesitant to talk about sales, prices or direct advertising on their Facebook pages. In fact, they attributed this to ‘consultants’ telling them to never sell on Facebook,” Scott Stebner, Managing Director, Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement, told me in an interview.
But customers didn’t feel the same. His co-researcher Dr. Lauri Baker, Assistant Professor in Agricultural Communications, Kansas State University, said, “While they did not want to be inundated with advertisements, they did want to be ‘in the know.’ One of the respondents even mentioned that she had talked to a friend who purchased an item on sale during an event and expressed frustration that the business didn’t advertise that event on Facebook. She missed the event and sale. For her, liking Facebook pages meant that she’d be kept ‘in the know.’”
Your audience likely has more than one motivation
It would be too easy if we could end the story there — customers want promotions. That is customer opinion in the aggregate. The ideal customer for your specific brand may be very different.
To make things even more complex, there is likely more than one specific type of customer who follows your brand. Let’s look at some further research as an example.
According to a MarketingSherpa study of 1,314 customers in 2009, customer categorized as Max Connectors (500+ followers) were most interested in learning about new products/features/services while those categorized as Daily Users were most interested in learning about sales and specials.
According to a survey of 1,000 millennials by Influence Central, Millennial non-moms were most interested in expressing opinions while millennial moms were most interested in being influencers.
So you can’t just look at any one chart and assume it neatly explains the single motivation of your brand’s social media followers. Discover your social media followers’ motivations and discover why they buy from your company. There are a wide range of tactics you can use to do that. Here are some examples:
But those are all just sources of information. You need to pull it all together in a regimented fashion to build a customer theory that you can clearly communicate within your organization and with marketing and advertising agencies and consulting partners. Here are some elements you might want to include in your customer theory:
Continue to build and refine your customer theory as your knowledge grows. Understanding the customer’s motivation is a very dynamic process. Even if you do get an understanding, customers, competitors and social networks often change.
We’ve made a free tool to help you pull all of this information together — Introductory Guide to Developing Your Customer Theory [an interactive worksheet].
Case Study #1: Learning from current customer behavior
Here’s an example of how one of those tactics can help a brand discover customer motivations — social media monitoring. Social media is a different beast than other marketing tactics because it can happen with or without you (queue Bono). I can’t imagine a customer running a print campaign for a product on their own, but they will promote your product on social media.
Door to Door Organics decided which social media platforms to build a brand presence on by monitoring customer behavior. “We had organic visuals that were popping up on Instagram and Facebook before we even had a presence on Instagram — just our customers taking photos of their box and of their delivery,” said Cambria Jacobs, Vice President of Marketing, Door to Door Organics.
Focusing on the social networks customers were motivated to use was part of an effort that helped the brand grow social media fans more than 600% in less than 18 months.
Case Study #2: Analyzing customer motivation to create campaign incentives that resonate
GradeGuru, a website that lets college students share class notes and study materials, used a third-party research firm that specializes in mining social media such as blogs, social networks, and forums.
The team learned that a large group of its ideal customer base was motivated by fear of failure and the need for positive reinforcement. Based on this, the team changed from having a laptop giveaway to offering an academic grant.
The company also dropped Facebook ads and instead leveraged on-campus ambassadors who promoted the grant through Facebook by hosting note-sharing events. “We tested that [ads] with this type of messaging, and it's not the right fit. This idea of getting recognition requires that you be seen as a legitimate academic resource and that you're authoritative. It doesn't help to be advertising on Facebook for this kind of thing. It just detracts from the worth, almost,” said Emily Sawtell, Founder and Managing Director, GradeGuru.
The results of this campaign: New member registrations grew by about 200% monthly, and the number of files uploaded per session tripled.
Case Study #3: Expand opportunities to match motivation
MECLABS analysts were engaged with Sermo, a physician-only social network, to increase conversion. The team focused on article pages.
Each article page highlighted one specific piece of research performed with Sermo’s platform. To see the details of the research, prospects would enter their information into a modal box lead form.
The team created a treatment to run against the original (the control) in an A/B test. For the treatment, the team reduced the amount of real estate on the page dedicated to the current article and eliminated post statistics as well.
This gave them room to add other newsworthy headlines and publication dates of the most recent Sermo surveys in the primary column underneath the most recent article.
By offering more content options, the treatment was more likely to tap into the visitors’ motivations and, as a result, the multi-article treatment had a 197% higher lead generation rate than the single article control.
Case Study #4: Learn from social media for offline marketing
You can also use wisdom gained from social media to ensure that your offline marketing taps into your ideal customers’ motivations.
“We've really used social media as a way to measure whether something resonates or not. So we'll know before we go Robert Leary, Director of Marketing, Old Trapperto pay for TV commercials; social media has already told us, generally, what works with our core audience.” said .
THE FORCE OF THE VALUE PROPOSITION
The value proposition is the primary reason why your prospect should buy from you rather than any of your competitors. (All the definitions of the conversion heuristic elements in this article are from the MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization on-demand certification course.)
And when you strip away the technology and spreadsheets, vendor management and meetings — really, the primary job of the marketer is to help customers perceive value.
Remember, there is that fundamental disconnect your company has with customers. The value your company provides might be incredibly obvious to your CEO, your agency and you personally, but the customer is not nearly as focused on your company as your vendors and employees are.
At best, you get a sliver of their attention.
And even then, they are not viewing your company with unfiltered eyes. They view your company with their own bias. This is what you must overcome. As Rabbi Shmuel ben Nachmani said, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”
This value perception challenge isn’t only for the overall company. There are four essential levels of value propositions.
Social media can be used to increase the probability of conversion when it helps convey the primary, prospect or product-level value proposition. And your social media accounts and activities need a process-level value proposition so customers understand why they should act.
Case Study #5: Process-level value prop of YouTube title
Here is an example of an effective process-level value proposition. Jill Schiefelbein, owner, The Dynamic Communicator, launched a video on YouTube called “Do the Penguin!” It describes a quick exercise she advises people to do before public speaking, and it makes you kind of look like a penguin. She got 1,200 views.
After a year, she changed the title to “Calm Your Nerves Before Public Speaking: Do the Penguin!” Viewership jumped up after the change, and she now has 104,558 views.
The new title probably increased viewership because it has some important keywords in there. But it also has a clearly better process-level value proposition. More people perceived the value of clicking and watching the video since it did a better job of answering the question, “If I am your ideal customer, why should I take this action instead of any other action?”
Case Study #6: Testing on social media to discover your company’s value prop
Social media can also be used to determine your company’s primary value proposition. This next case study comes from Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, and shows how any company — no matter the size or location — can use the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic to focus on the customer and increase the conversion of their social media marketing.
A marketing consultant for a shoe repair shop was trying to determine which value element to lead with — the shop’s 30 years of experience or its convenient location. The consultant launched a series of tests using Facebook Ads to discover what worked best.
Test #1: Facebook ad delivery optimized for engagement
Treatment #1: Experience
Quality Shoe Repair
30 years of practice in the repair of ladies’, men’s and children’s shoes.
See where it is.
(Google Maps link)
Treatment #2: Location
The shop is in the center of Blagoevgrad —
30 meters* from the “Mosque” stop.
Get fast with a car or with a bus №2.
See where it is. (Google Maps link)
*distance is approximate”
Test #1 Results
The ad with the value proposition focused on the shop’s experience generated a 59.7% higher engagement rate.
Test #2: Facebook ad delivery optimized for impressions
Test #2 used the same creative, but Facebook ad delivery was optimized for impressions. Again, experience performed better, with a 33.5% higher engagement rate.
At this point, consultant Metodi Iliev said, “I still didn’t believe the experience was a stronger value prop than the location, so I set a new test.”
Test #3: Facebook ad delivery optimized for link clicks
Treatment #1: Experience
Quality Shoe Repair
30 years of practice in the repair of ladies’,
men’s and children’s shoes.
See where it is. (Google Maps link)
Treatment #2: Location
Ideally Located in The City Center
The shop is in the center of Blagoevgrad 30 meters* from
the “Mosque” stop.
Get there fast with a car or bus
№2. A blue area is nearby.
See where it is. (Google Maps link)
*distance is approximate
Test #3 results
Again experience performed better, generating a 68.7% higher clickthrough rate.
Friction is the psychological resistance to a given element in the sales process.
Friction decreases the probability of conversion, but it isn’t necessarily bad. Friction can help you decide what kind of actions you want from a conversion ask. You can use it almost like two dials. If you want a higher quantity of actions (leads, contest entries, etc.), you can dial down the friction. If you want a higher quality, you can dial up the friction.
Remember, motivation has the largest impact on the probability of conversion. So when you dial up the friction, only the most motivated customers are likely to take the action.
Social media can be used to increase or decrease friction (intentionally and unintentionally).
Take social logins, for example. Social logins can be used to decrease friction by allowing visitors to log into your website with accounts they’ve already set up and so, no need to create a new account.
However, it can increase friction as well. Some companies only ask for social logins and don’t provide an option for a visitor to use one’s email address to set up an account directly on the site. Or, they make the email option so subtle, customers overlook it and don’t realize it is there. With the increasing news around how major platforms like Facebook use customer data, the anxiety (more on that next) caused by privacy concerns could outweigh the friction reduction from social logins. Customers may also be anxious about giving a website access to their social media account by connecting it to the site.
Another example where social media can increase or decrease friction is when a company hosts a sweepstakes on a social network. For example, a form on a Facebook page can decrease friction for active users of that network.
However, it can increase friction as well. For someone who isn’t an active user of that network, they would have to create an account just to enter your sweepstakes.
Sweepstakes are a great example of dialing up or down friction using social media. While many sweepstakes on website landing pages only require a simple form fill, sweepstakes hosted on social networks often ask entrants to follow, like, tag a friend, include a hashtag, share a post, etc. Each additional ask increases friction and decreases conversion. But that may not be a bad thing. The people who do jump through all those hoops are likely more highly motivated and more active social media users. If your goal is getting fewer entrants but a more social-savvy group of entrants, adding the friction from those steps will help you meet that goal. Just make sure you are adding friction intentionally and understand the tradeoffs; don’t add friction because your company simply overlooked this important element.
Case Study #7: Specific landing pages
One of the primary ways to reduce friction when using social media is to ensure that when you drive traffic from social media to your website there is a clear connection between what the customer expects to happen when they click, and where they end up.
Here’s a great example that involves email (it popped in my head because the company, MVMT, is a heavy social media user), but the general concept is the same and is illustrated particularly well here.
MVMT’s email campaign linked to the general collections page.
For the company’s Winter Escape campaign, the team made a change and linked the email to a specific landing page that connected with the email message.
The campaign that linked to the specific landing page generated a 44% relative increase in conversion rate and 1.7x higher revenue.
Anxiety is a psychological concern stimulated by a given element in the sales or “buy” process.
And anxiety reduction may be one of the biggest benefits of social media. According to the 2011 MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Report — SEO Edition, the conversion rate for marketers who mix search and social was 27%, while the conversion rate for marketers who do not was 17%.
This may be because social media marketing can decrease anxiety and increase brand reputation.
According to the report, more marketers said social media was a very effective way to improve brand or product reputation than SEO (37% for social media vs. 29% for SEO), and more said it was very effective at improving public relations (36% for social media vs. 27% for SEO).
One of the reasons social media can reduce anxiety is because of social proof — a term coined by Dr. Robert Cialdini, referring to the phenomenon that people tend to copy others. For example, laugh tracks in TV shows.
There are basic ways to use social proof to reduce anxiety, like sharing social media posts where customers boast about your brand.
Case Study #8: Using social media growth as social proof in press releases
But social media can have a larger impact as well. When the California State Park Foundation launched their “Friend Get a Friend” campaign on Facebook — “This year’s [state park budget] cuts are ten times as bad, so we need ten times the fans on Facebook.” — the growth in social media was used as a proof point for the Foundation’s cause.
Tom Stienstra reported in The San Francisco Chronicle, “The California State Parks Foundation, the lead public organization advocating keeping the parks open, had its fan base on Facebook increase from 500 to 33,000 in the past two weeks, reports Jerry Emory of the Foundation.”
That social proof reduces the anxiety of people who may be considering whether they should donate to the foundation.
Not all social proof is equal. People who the customer actually knows well have the largest effect on them. While you can’t ensure you get a testimonial on social media from someone the customer actually knows, you can get testimonials from people they think they know — influencers.
On the high end are celebrities. When a big-name celebrity such as Kylie Jenner or Conor McGregor posts about it, HiSmile’s average social media following increases by about 5,000 to 10,000 followers per day. The brand’s baseline is an average of 1,000 followers per day.
When looking for influencers, look beyond subscriber numbers at engagement metrics. “You can have a million subscribers and get only 5,000 views on a video. We call that, in YouTubeland, a ‘dead channel,’” said social media influencer Dr. Stephanie Buttermore.
Case Study #9: Promoting influencers to get them involved
You can pay for an influencer to endorse your product (and if you do so, make sure the influencer is clear about the sponsorship and that you follow all necessary regulations and laws).
But you can also encourage influencer involvement. The wellness planning app Owaves reached out to relevant influencers with more than 10,000 followers and ask for their daily routine and a photo. The company then created an image and shared it.
“It was great for them because they got promoted on our blog, and it was great for us because we got promoted on their social media,” said Claire Akin, Marketing Manager, Owaves.
Beware the opposite of social proof — I call it social doubt. In other words, social media can also increase anxiety. For example, social buttons with little activity. Or if your brand doesn’t have many followers, you may not want to add social account logos to your website yet.
Reducing anxiety with company actions
While I mostly focused on the social proof aspect, a company’s own actions can reduce anxiety as well through social media. For example, publishing content marketing to build authority, credibility and trust.
Or give high-quality customer service on social media. Social networks have opened up many interactions between companies and businesses. If customers don’t see you addressing their peers’ challenges quickly and effectively, it will raise their anxiety and decrease the probability they will take a conversion action with your company.
Incentive is an appealing element such as a discount, a bonus, or special offer introduced to stimulate a desired action.
When brands don’t have the above elements in place, they tend to use (and abuse) incentives. I call it the bacon of marketing tactics because just like a bad chef can cover up a poor meal by throwing bacon on top (even a plain kale salad tastes better with bacon), marketers can compensate for a poor value proposition, funnel or customer experience by heavily leveraging incentives.
When I mention incentives and social media, your mind probably immediately goes to offering incentives to follow the brand on social media. And it does work. “There is an incentive (e.g., sweepstakes, discount, gift card)” is the third most frequently cited reason for following brands on social media, according to our consumer research.
But there are other ways to use incentives as well.
Case Study #10: Social media giveaway lifts sales 15%
You could offer a random incentive in a social media sweepstakes. But you are more likely to get business results if the giveaway is tightly connected to your product’s value proposition … or the product itself.
Outdoor apparel and gear retailer Moosejaw used its products as incentives in a social media giveaway campaign that helped lift sales 15%.
“Instead of just a customer re-tweeting a single tweet, or replying something random [in Facebook], they really got into it and talked about why they liked the product, why it’s a good product, why they love the brand, and why they love Moosejaw,” said Gary Wohlfeill, Creative Director, Moosejaw.
Case Study #11: Social media images on product pages
And in a final case study that ties it all together, Diamond Candles used social media images on its product pages to tap into customer motivation, help communicate the product’s value proposition, decrease anxiety in buying the product, and reduce the friction inherent in trying to understand what the product is.
How did it get these images? Using incentives.
Diamond Candles have a ring inside each candle worth $10 to $5,000 that is revealed when the candle is burned down. The company encouraged customers to post ring reveal photos on social media using product giveaways as an incentive. When added to product pages, the conversion rate increased 13% on average.
“If we know that someone sees a photo that a friend of theirs took on a product page and the conversion rate is 20% higher, or what have you, compared to a relatively anonymous photo, then we can know how much we can play with incentives to get more of this content,” said Justin Winter, Co-Founder and CEO, Diamond Candles.
I will be speaking about “How to Use Social Media to Increase your Marketing Conversion” at Social Media Expo in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 25, 2019.
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