What is Your Social Conversion Rate?

New presentation debuts at Innotech eMarketing Summit in Portland

After collaborating for a ClickZ article on Social Conversion with Dave Evans, I was pleased to get an opportunity to work with him to expand on the topic. I presented the topic at the eMarketing Summit during Innotech Portland 2009.

This is a topic that is moving quickly, and I suspect you will have something to say. Please do.

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What is Your Social Conversion Rate?

We’re going to talk today about your social conversion rate.

There is a lot of discussion about social media, Twitter, blogging. What should we be doing? How do we know if we’re doing it right? How do we implement it? How do we pick the places to start? Should we be on Facebook or should be on Twitter? The goal of my presentation today is to give you a way of looking at social media so that you can make those decisions specific to your business.

I am going to start with a premise which you may or may not buy: Advertising was designed to simulate word of mouth as word of mouth was inefficient. Was it designed purposely for that? But that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to have a trusted relationship where we could recommend our own products with more people than we would get simply by waiting for word of mouth to filter through.

Today that’s not the case. Word of mouth is very efficient. Things are changing in advertising.

Defining Conversion

Let’s talk about paid media and earned media, which I’ve redefined a little bit. We’re going to talk about the typical funnel that we are all aware of. Some, add a stage to this. Some add several stages to the awareness consideration funnel. And then we’re gonna talk about the post-purchase funnel.

Dave Evans in his book, “Social media marketing an hour a day”, does an excellent treatment of the post purchase funnel. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be here today to co-present with me. So I get to take all the credit.

We’re going to talk about two kinds of metrics, predictive and definitive and about some of the things we might measure in each of these stages.

The arrows are conversions. So, I will define conversion as a movement to the next stage.

For most of us, a conversion is generating a lead, completing a shopping cart, and that is still true. But in looking at the funnel, we realized we need to convert people to understand what our business does, to be considering our solution as part of their solutions, and then, of course, to take action.

So in different businesses, we’re going to map this differently. It’s going to be interesting challenge.

Paid Media and Earned Media Funnels

Let’s start with paid media. This is very simple. Put in a quarter and connect with someone. Buy a print ad, buy a display ad, Google AdSense, Pay per Click advertising.

However if you’re advertising paid media where you pay somebody for the right to put your message out in public, it’s considered paid media.

Generally or traditionally earned media was applied to articles in press today. We really can apply it to social media. So I’ve expanded the definition of earned media to include social conversation.

I like earned media better than social media because social media sounds like we’re out talking to people. Earned media sounds like we’re out earning our media. And I think that is really where the bar needs to be set.

Your content needs to be worthy of being talked about. Your product needs to be worthy of being talked about. How you talk about your product needs to be worthy of being talked about.

Predictive Metrics and Definitive Metrics

Let’s cover two kinds of metrics. They’re predictive metrics and they’re definitive metrics. Predictive metrics are something that conversion scientists of which all of you will become one day use to get an idea of what’s going to happen. So I know if somebody adds to cart, that’s pretty predictive of them buying something. But not everybody buys, that’s called the abandoned rate.

Somebody visiting my webpage is predictive of a level of awareness. I can assume they’re aware of my company or my brand. It’s predictive. My bounce rate is 90%. It’s not a very good predictor.

Average, page views for visit, time on site, those are more definitive. They tell you what is happening and what has happened. I like definitive measurements because they’re usually really close to business goals.

They bought the product, they downloaded the white paper. They gave us a lead. They called.

Levels of Conversion

How do you measure awareness? How do you measure how well people are becoming aware of what you’re doing through your advertising?

First is conversion to awareness. When somebody says, ah, this company does this. They become aware of what your brand, what your company does, what problem it can solve for them would probably myself or them in the future.

Brand marketing and image marketing are designed to get people to understand what you’re about. Usually at a very high level. But good brand marketing can take you quite far down.

A couple of metrics we would look in here, predictive. How many impressions are we getting? How many people are seeing our ads and ostensibly reading them and understanding what our brand is about?

Becoming aware of our company, RSS subscribers, searches that are made for brand keywords. Those are all what I would call predictive measures.

As you’re thinking about putting together a social media campaign for each media, you need to be asking, what are my predictors? Do I want to measure those? Or do you want to focus more on the definitive measure?

From the awareness standpoint, if they do come to my website, I might infer that that is an accurate measure of their knowledge of my brand. And if I come to a brochure page and tells me I’m the leader in something that I don’t understand, it doesn’t tell a story, they may not actually understand and be aware of what we actually do. They just come to a brochure website. Click throughs, page views, contest entries.

If you’re running a contest, bounce rate, these are all definitive measures of how we’re doing from the awareness standpoint.

Consideration Conversion

So this is considered a conversion consideration. Processing, developing a preference for what you process of someone, developing a preference for what you provide.

In a lot of business to business sales processes, this can be a 30 day, 60 days, three months, six months, nine month process. People are buying something that’s high budget item. A lot of people may be involved. There are lots of little conversions that happen in here as they go through the consideration process and understand what you do, why you’re better, what their alternatives are or what happens if they go without. What happens if they choose someone else. Going through that consideration process around your product or service.

Predictive metrics that I would focus on are:

  • Minimum number of return visits. If you are a consultant in a high consideration process, return visits would indicate that coming back, home, more information, and you can generate return visits with good things like good email campaigns and social campaigns, bookmarks.
  • How many people are bookmarking, a piece of information that they’re consuming. Key page visits, key page key pages are a first and foremost, your landing pages. I believe home page and your bio pages are your product pages.
  • Number of searches made, time on site.

Those are all predictive of people who are engaging with you, who are in the conversion consideration process, definitively. This is where leads and downloads come from. So I know that they are learning more about my product. If you’re downloading things, giving me information, calling me, attending my webinars, attending my seminars. I believe that ours has subscribed as a sample of that.

We don’t know how many people are really reading through our RSS. So this really might qualify better as a predictive metric. Newsletter, circulation visits, to comparison shopping center, shopping pages, and any online chance that they’re doing. All indicative of consideration conversion, people who are engaged.

How many of you have a sales cycle that is longer than 30 days, 60 days, three months, nine months, a year. You’ve got to keep people engaged and entertained in a web.

The web is such a great way to do that. And with social media, we actually have the opportunity to get other people to help us do that.

Conversion to Action

When we say conversion, this is usually what we’re focused on. They bought something, they became a lead, they did something that’s going to materially benefit my business, add to cart, coupons or a couple of predictive action-based ones.

All of the consideration ones I generally use as predictive. If somebody joined the house list, they increase in my eyes the number of people who are going to be buying, even if that’s over time,

Anybody who’s watching anything on their website that tells you things are moving in the right direction or not. Find a dealer. I think that would be a great predictive one. How many people are searching for dealers?

They buy something. They subscribe to our online service. They renew, they upgrade, upsell, add on and they purchase again.

The Post-Purchase Funnel

So we’ve got our traditional awareness consideration action funnel. All of us are taught that in marketing school or we learn it from our sales guys. And what we do with social media is we say, all right, we need to do blogs and Twitter so that we can start cramming more people into the awareness funnel. Get them into the front and work them down to action. That’s what we’re going to do with social media.

Dave Evans in his book said there’s a post-purchase funnel. And these guys are your prime targets for social media. They know your product, they like it, or they hate it.

But these are where you’re going to find your influencers. The guys that will build your tipping point, that will spread the word and begin the feedback cycle.

Just like we did with awareness, consideration, and action, we’re going to go through the same process with the last half of the funnel.

First of all, you have to convert them to use the product. If they buy it, they spent money on it. Aren’t they going to use it? Not necessarily.

Think of all the people who are building web 2.0 applications who do a freemium model and they come in and they sign up for the free trial, a free demo. Software companies then don’t do anything to encourage this person to use it.

Well, they forget about it. Maybe they did it on a whim. It seemed important at the time, something more important came up. Whatever the issue is. If you aren’t actively converting people from buyers to users, you are missing an opportunity.

Predictive Metrics

So what does that mean from the social media funnel? Visits to your help site, service calls, visits to your user forums. These are all what I think are predictive of increased use. An increase in visitors to your forums and increased in posts on your forums, increasing help calls means people are trying to use your product. I would call that predictive.

Reservations is a great example of predictive things to watch that tells people that they’re using your product. Reservations predicts coming and spending money.
Loyalty program and repeat buy.

Definitive Metrics

Unique login. We’re just talking about logins, renewals, registration cards, returns. People are using it. They might not like it. They are returning it. You’ll get a company like Zappos. They’ll let you order three or four sizes of the same shoe and return the others. It turned into a very positive thing for them.
Logins, I think is probably the closest you’re gonna get. If you have a website as a service.

Forming an Opinion

We then need to convert them to form an opinion, Oh my God, are we spoon-feeding these people? Can they not think for themselves?

There’s really two components to opinion. It’s my own personal experience and the experience of others.

My opinion might be swayed by what you hear from other folks. Certainly going to be swayed by my own experience. But people tend to want to either be contrary to the crowd or join the crowd. And depending on what the talk is, the buzz is out there in the social network, social networks or the social media space about your product, it can significantly influence opinion.

How many of you are familiar with the net promoter score? The net promoter score asks one question, would you, after using my product, recommend it to somebody else. They survey, they go out and they ask that one question and they ask you on a scale of one to 10 would you recommend my product?

Then you take the positives, subtract the negatives and that gives you your net promoter score. If you’re a net promoter score is negative, you know that there is something wrong with the product, with the experience, with followup or customer support, etcetera.

It’s a great, great predictive measure of opinion surveys. There’s a number of ways of measuring buzz. I’m assuming that we’re all still trying to figure out exactly how to prioritize and spend our money and resources at this time.

So I’m not going to talk about those tools, but I think there’s been a lot of discussion about those here. What are the comments like? How good are the ratings? How good are the reviews?

Definitively: Are people renewing? Are they upgrading upselling, add on purchases? Are they joining affinity groups? How are my returns? How many bookmarks am I getting?

This tells me, people are plugging into the places a where they can hear other people’s opinion and eventually express their own.

What are you doing to predict whether people are forming an opinion? In other words, how do you know if the loyalty programs don’t indicate somebody who’s bought the product, use the product, developed enough of a positive attitude that they anticipate buying more of the products and joining a loyalty product probably fits better here in the opinion, conversion, would you agree?

One of my clients is selling a software website as a service product. And they’re using a book to teach people the process of using the site and why it’s different, why it’s unique.

Therefore people who visit the book site and buy the book is actually predictive of people using the software. That’s an interesting use of content as a predictor.

Conversion to Talk

Give them some place to talk. Now, today they’re finding a lot of places to talk. You don’t necessarily have to give them a place to talk, but if you can, then you get to be a part of the conversation. Pretty much off talking on Pixo and Bebo and places that you don’t play. You don’t get to be a part of the conversation.

If they’re coming and talking on your blog, you get to play. It is a really good idea to create these social landing pages.

The things that people are talking about was really interesting. Rojas said that if somebody tells you, they’re going to get you 10,000 followers on Facebook, what value is it? I believe friends and follows, authority are all predictive. So yes, having a lot of friends on Facebook can be predictive somewhat.

You’re going to find out whether 10,000 friends translates into X sales per month of your product, X number of leads of your product, search your rank. So using things like Technorati, Google Search. Google Page Rank, these are all indications that people who are linking back to you, and they’re very predictive of how you’re doing out there.

Definitive measures of people who are talking

Things that you can measure, things you can put on a graph. number of comments, number of reviews, number of ratings, how many link backs are you getting? How many shares are you having through share this with a friend? How many people are using discount codes, sending out invitations? How many user groups? What are your user group memberships, both online and offline.
These are definitive measurements of people who are putting themselves in a position to talk about whatever. If they like you, they’re likely to talk about you.

People are using hashtags. II think that would be definitive measure of talk. If you can use the Twitter API or go do a regular search and harvest those things, the problem with Twitter is it’s big and it’s hard. It’s expensive to get those metrics out right now. So it’s hard for me on a weekly basis to make strategic decisions. But the people who are representing me on Twitter will use those on a day to day basis to respond and be a part of the conversation.

A predictive metric of talk

How many posts you make on other blogs? So I just got an email from somebody. I posted something on LinkedIn. He came back, visited my site and commented on my blog and talked about a book that I’m in the process of publishing. The more posts you make is predictive of the number of posts you’re gonna be on your blogs.

And there is a correlation there. When I post three times a week, my traffic just goes. When I stop and cut back to one a week, to a month, it drops or at least flattens out almost like a volume switch.

Anything you can do to measure that sounds predictive because they’re coming to a website and we don’t know what it’s going to mean. It’s essentially a measure of clickthroughs.

But as you start to say, okay, we need some way to measure use. We need some way to measure opinion. We need some way to measure talk. And when someone measures the feedback loop to the original funnel, you start to think, okay, well let’s use bud URL. Let’s use Google tag tracking.

You start to put the things in place that just measure those things rather than just, all right, we need a Twitter page. Puts a little bit of planning in place and if it’s not working for you, you can stop it and see. Can you really unplug yourself from the social media sphere?

Social landing pages

Now we all know that in the awareness consideration action funnel landing pages are incredibly powerful. If we have an ad that says 20% off and we take them to a page that says 20% off, instead of taking them to homepage, they are in the right place. And we were more likely to engage them and get them to finish. The landing page does not give them distractions, distracting navigation, ways for them to hedge their buys, but really gives them the information they need to make that decision to buy that product at that time. Our conversion rates go up.

So what are the social equivalents?

I would argue the best social landing page right now is the blog. And I like the blog because it services all three levels of the social media funnel, the post purchase funnel.

It provides information, which means people, can better use your product or service. In this case, I write a lot of best practices about how to implement email, how to implement landing pages, how to write copy, the things that I recommend to my clients I use my blog to increase use.

User commentary will influence opinions, or you can comment on my blog. People add. people subtract, people argue. This helps to influence opinion. It also helps to influence use.

Calls to action generate talk. There’s a big box on there says if you got something to say, here’s a place to say comment here.

At the same time, blogs are promotional. You really can’t see any of the promotions, but I promote books that I believe in and things like that on my website. And there is a way to join email. Therefore, I am providing specific offers, which bring people from my blog back around to the awareness or the consideration phase. And the beauty of this kind of word of mouth is that people tend to jump in at the consideration phase because the social or the earned media has already taken them through awareness. So you don’t have to worry about explaining to them what you do. You can start talking to them about solving a problem.

Anytime I put something out in social media, I use a trackable URL and that tells you what content is getting traction, what posts are interesting. And it is always not what you expect.

More social landing pages: the help page. This will be good for use help pages increase use. Give them some resources, put those in your notification emails.

Forums that we’ve been doing social media actually for years and years and years going all the way back to the use groups. That’s 25 years ago, social media forums.

As all the components, you can tell people who are highly active, they don’t do friending. Number of posts is the trust system they use here. So, you know, you trust somebody. If they’re a guru or senior poster, they have a thousand or 25,000 posts since joining our forum.

Micro blogs, I’m still trying to figure out what the best practices are in terms of measuring Twitter’s impact. I think the measurable URLs coming back to the Twitter verse. Being able to do searches for tags. Twitter is really just a telephone company and the applications that are going to be coming on to help us manage and understand what’s going on in the Twitter verse are going to be amazing.

Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Everybody’s creating these, these resources for affinity groups. So these become great landing pages. You can post, you can encourage other people to post. You can post videos. So you do the entertainment. You’re increasing use. You’re increasing opinion and you’re giving them a place to talk. These are pretty effective. A lot of these are siloed. In this case, this is a fan page, everybody can see this, but to participate you have to be a member of Facebook. Thus you start to getting these siloed things and it’s going to reduce your social conversion rates.

And finally bacon. I think this is completely under utilized. Bacon is the notification email version of spam. It is the confirmation email that you get. This one is a great example, it was sent to me by mint. After I hadn’t logged on for 30 days and said, we miss you. We just want you to come back and log in. And I could actually, it was a great, a great service cause I had gone in and started doing something, got distracted and forgot. And they sent me this. I got back in and I love using it now. So I’m really glad they sent me this a little bit of bacon.

Whenever you send a confirmation says thank you for subscribing to the newsletter. We want to confirm your email click here and don’t add. Let’s think of a better example. Somebody has just subscribed to your site. So your online sites and you say, thank you for joining click here to S to confirm your email. And that’s all you put on there. Well, how about here’s where you can get started. Here’s our help files. There’s a forum you can visit.

You can start getting people into the use with each of these notification emails. I think it’s terribly under utilized. Every touch is an opportunity to get people further down to create another conversion. So that is it.

What I wanted to do is, once again, plug my friend, Dave who’s really did a lot of the legwork on around this, but thanks for your contributions and the presentation will get better. I promise. Thanks to you.

Brian Massey
1 reply
  1. Jean Carpenter-Backus says:

    Good job on your blog, Brian…Interesting info on social media esp the Social Conversion Rate….where can I learn more about it? I have no idea about my own conversion rate. My blog is The Naked Accountant.com. I believe you sent me a direct msg on twitter a while back…I didn’t know there was an area for direct messages…otherwise, I would have found this sooner!!


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