Commentary

Why 'Social Conversion' Is A Term You Should Know

Social Distortion rocked. Social studies didn't. Social anxiety is as common as acne. And social conversion is the term online marketers need to know. Why? Because online marketing conversion as we know it today is unlikely to survive as a successful long-term tactic.

A few years ago, online marketers overvalued the click. Now, more and more, people have seen the light and understand that the click is not the reason we market. But we still seem to overvalue single transactions or events. We're still not focused on the end game--increasing our revenue.

No matter how high your conversion rate is, it is probably limited to a single event. Big deal. Wouldn't you rather invest the same spend and get a string of events in return? Wouldn't you prefer to trade that expensive dinner for a relationship rather than a one-night stand? (Some of you social deviants answered "no" to that one, I know.)

Take a fresh look at your online marketing and visualize it leading to not one event, but to many events strung together into a relationship. This relationship is much more permanent and pervasive than even the most perfectly honed lead or transaction. With this mutual engagement you establish a new level of branding-based on shared interests and conversations.

Big Picture

This relationship starts with a handshake. That handshake is the new conversion. And it happens on high-powered social landing pages. These landing pages come after your paid search, email or advertising and culminate in targeted, social engagement--rather than a lead-gen form or single transaction. You guide your respondents to participate in highly segmented social vehicles--self-serving to both your mission and to their needs.

Now don't start thinking I am advocating this handshake as some kind of vague conversion black hole. Every bit of this should be measurable and accountable. The frequency of engagement taken against your click-through-rate is your conversion rate and the depth of engagement shows your relative conversion quality. Said another way, you want to track how many people are engaging and what they are doing after they engage. Then you want to track everything back to where they came from. And then track it all back to sales.

Leveraging the Social Vehicles You Already Have

What makes this so exciting is that most of us have social networking vehicles already in place. And most of us are struggling to leverage them to truly improve our bottom lines. Thanks to widgets like Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect you can promote and feed those existing vehicles using your online marketing. Take that niche Facebook group and pour 500 new members with shared interests right into it. Watch them start talking--all about you and what you offer. The possibilities are stunningly real and immediate.

Think Outside the box, too

Using widgets, it's become super easy to enhance landing pages with small social features like picture posts, discussions and microblogs. For example, one of the things we've begun doing is socializing our white papers. Now, when a respondent receives one of our white papers, it includes buttons (on the pages of the white paper). These buttons allow readers to deepen their engagement with us by posting questions to the author or discussing the white paper with peers. We even track which pages of the white paper stimulate the most interest-which gives us valuable messaging insight.

The people who participate at this level are passionate about the subject matter and of very high value to us. Engaging with them on a common ground--within the context of our brand and ideals--brings them into an inner circle that could never be realized with a standard landing page or Web site. No manner of stimulating a single event can come close to matching the trust and enthusiasm of an exchange.

We are all (hopefully) experts on something. It can be something as simple as a basic product or as far reaching as global politics. Either way, the most compelling form of marketing is one that establishes a rapport between our organization's expertise and those who care. Using online marketing to identify those who care is step one--segmentation. Making the connection using social conversion is step two. As long as we participate, then once the conduit is open, we're home free. Social conversion has a lot more legs than any single event. Believe it. Prove it. Make it happen.

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