Conversations That Lead to Social Success

Marketers are struggling to find ways to consistently build word-of-mouth in social media. While 2010 was about increasing raw Facebook Fan Page counts with special offers, giveaways and promotions, marketers are now focused on building a community of engaged Fans that participate in word-of-mouth activities to pursue long-term loyalty and sales.

Facebook Conversations from Social Sharing

Unfortunately, most marketers take the wrong approach by focusing too much on their Fan page. Recently, Dan Zarrella discussed how his own Fan page posts with lots of comments do not drive higher impressions in a recent post on the HubSpot blog. Before you abandon Facebook as a channel in frustration and disgust, I’d like to explain why Dan’s approach doesn’t work, and offer an alternative word-of-mouth path that can lead to success on the social web.

Dan looked at examples from two B2B Facebook Fan Pages to come to his conclusions. Since most Facebook Fans are already satisfied users of your product, B2B brands’ social media goals are likely to be about educating and generating awareness of product news, special offers or upcoming events, and staying top-of-mind. They may also curate and share content to position themselves as thought leaders within their category.

Also, B2B Fans tend to be less engaged than B2C Fans. Even with less engagement, we can’t assume they haven’t reached their goals because people tend to engage with brands in their professional time differently than they do in their free time.

B2C brands like Target, Gap, Walmart and Disney know that their most loyal advocates are also their Facebook Fans, and they’re Liking, sharing and commenting on their content. Participation and engagement levels are high, and come naturally for their Fans.

Dan’s analysis that conversations on Facebook Fan pages don’t lead to views, links or traffic is supported by two important trends that impact social conversion:

1. Brands Are Losing Prominence on Facebook

Only 1 in 500 Facebook posts make it into your Fan’s Top News Feed, thanks to Facebook EdgeRank. And only 2% of Fans ever visit your Fan Page after they’ve Liked your brand. So if a Fan isn’t frequently engaging with your brand or if you’re not giving them a reason to visit your Page, it’s likely they won’t see your updates or special offer in the first place.  Those successful B2C brands often have ongoing promotions, and give their Fans daily reasons to engage which improves their affinity score (an element of EdgeRank). If business users aren’t Liking, commenting or sharing your posts, it’s likely they won’t even see future ones.

2. People Trust People, Not Brands

Recent research indicates that 37% of social media users trust what their friends and family members say about a brand or product on social media, compared to only 10% who trust what strangers say, and that 60% were at least somewhat likely to take action when a friend posted something about a product, service, company or brand on a social media site. Smart marketers know that trust is an important factor in social conversion and that brand advocates are a critical element.

Recommendation for Social Conversations That Convert

So, if the Facebook Fan page is not likely to drive conversations, impressions, or coversions, how can we use word of mouth in social channels? My recommendation is to drive peer engagement instead. Encourage customers and brand advocates to share content from your website to their Facebook Wall for all their friends to see. When you integrate social features on your website like social login, sharing and invite-a-friend, and make it easy for people to share, they add their personal endorsement, which carries more weight than anything on your Facebook Fan page.

People tend to see their friends’ posts more often than brands’, which improves delivery of the message and initiates conversations. And when a friend recommends a brand, product or service, their network is more likely to trust that opinion and click the link to learn more.

Citysearch Finds Social Success

Citysearch implemented social features on their site to facilitate word-of-mouth marketing and promote sharing of user-generated content on Facebook. With Janrain Engage, they offer users a convenient one-click login and sharing to Facebook experience that encourages them to actively engage while on the site.

Making it easy for site visitors to share recommendations with friends has paid off for Citysearch. Since implementing Janrain Engage, content shared to Facebook from a friend is viewed by an average of 40 people and generates 28 clicks back to the Citysearch site.

With the Janrain Engage social analytics dashboard, Citysearch has all the insights to track trends in site registrations, repeat visits, social posts and resulting referral traffic from shared posts. Beyond having knowledge to measure the success of their integration, they now have access to information that can drive continual enhancements to their social media strategy.

Can Facebook conversations lead to more links and views? Absolutely. When those conversations are between friends and family, brands can be assured that quality referral links will be sent their way.  A focus on integrating social features throughout your website to initiate conversations that convert is key to social ROI.