One of the struggles that companies have always had with social media marketing is balancing the functions and sometimes even limitations of the tools, with the company’s need to drive sales and increase revenue. As I have said before, social media really doesn’t function well as a direct-sales tool. Social media definitely plays a role in the sales funnel, but it’s closer to the top than the bottom.
In Marketing 101 class we learned about the AIDA model of consumer behavior.
A = Awareness
I = Interest
D = Desire
A = Action
We could change that a bit for the modern consumer’s purchase journey, especially with an online context:
1 – Awareness, a potential customer becomes aware of your brand
2 – Comparison and evaluation, the customer evaluates your brand, if it is a fit for their needs, and compares it to other brands to determine which is best for them
3 – Action, the customer decides to buy your product
4 – Post-purchase evaluation and service. The customer evaluates your product and if they are satisfied with the product as well as the company’s support and service for the product. This greatly influences the word of mouth that the customer will generate about the product moving forward.
So there are two key points to realize here:
1 – There is an actual customer journey prior to and even after each purchase. Every customer has different content needs based on where they are in their unique purchase journey. You need to determine how to reach the customer at each point, and create the appropriate content for them.
2 – Customers will require multiple content touchpoints prior to a purchase, and that takes time and effort.
A big reason why many companies start and abandon social media marketing is because they don’t fully understand the role that social media plays in the customer’s purchase journey. Since interaction with social media content happens at the top of the sales funnel for most customers (during the Awareness stage), then it’s often difficult to tie the sale back to the content that moved the customer closer to the sale. At the same time, it’s imperative for companies to continue to create that content because if not then it won’t rank as well in search engine results, which makes it more difficult for a customer to find your content to begin with. If you google ‘creating a brand ambassador program”, you’re going to find one of my posts, you won’t find the post written by the agency in 2010 that hasn’t written a new post on its blog since 2012.
Let’s go through a hypothetical. Let’s say I have a laptop that runs hot as a firecracker after 15 mins. So hot that it’s uncomfortable, and I am doing research on what I can do to make my laptop run cooler. I google the term “Why does my laptop run so hot?”, and I come across a post on your company blog titled “Why does your laptop run so hot? Because it needs a cooling pad!”
A cooling pad? I had no idea such a device existed! But apparently it does, and your company sells it. It’s a pad that has two fans that you put under your laptop while it is running that cools the laptop down. So now that I know such a device exists, I move from the Awareness stage to the Comparison and Evaluation stage. This is where I ask my friends if they have ever used a cooling pad, and I research them online on sites like Amazon, etc.
This is where it’s very important for your company to stay connected to its customers. If your company that sells the best little cooling pad in the world has been actively engaging its happy customers, then those happy customers will now happily sell me on why I should buy a cooling pad from your company. They will be writing blog posts praising your cooling pad, and 5-star reviews on Amazon. See how we are already dealing with multiple content touchpoints?
So I found out about your cooling pad by reading a post on your company blog. I then researched several cooling pads and your company’s happy customers told me that your company’s cooling pad was the best. So I went to Amazon and bought your cooling pad.
Here’s the thing that drives companies crazy. Even though I bought your cooling pad, and even though my purchase journey began with reading a post on your company blog about your cooling pad, it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to tie that post to the sale of a cooling pad. Which is why many companies will abandon social media marketing efforts that may actually be working, they just can’t easily track the results.
But I’ll talk more about ROI in a few days. For now, you have to understand that multiple content touchpoints will be required to generate a sale. Typically you won’t have one blog post that directly generates all the sales you need. You need to not only create a steady flow of customer-centric content, you also have to keep engaging the customer at every step of the purchase journey.