How brands can convert Facebook users into customers

Converting users into customers on Facebook isn't a science, but the social network is quickly becoming a valuable way companies to boost sales. Brands need to embrace potential influencers and provide insights with a purpose if they hope to turn Facebook users into customers.

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Marketing is sometimes considered a niche form of storytelling, but its stories mean nothing if they don't make brands resonate with potential customers and ultimately lead to sales. Many modern marketers view the people who connect with their brands on social media as potential leads that could become customers.

Converting users to customers on social media platforms such as Facebook isn't always a straightforward process. The journey is often riddled with challenges and unmet opportunities. Using social media to achieve brand lift, loyalty and engagement is typically easier to do but harder to quantify and justify as a business investment.

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"No one trusts a brand or brand stories anymore," according to Cameron Friedlander, marketing technology strategy lead at Kimberly-Clark, a consumer packaged goods conglomerate. "As a brand speaking directly to consumers all you can do is give them facts either about the category, the brand, product or company."

The most important thing any brand can do to cultivate and eventually convert Facebook users into customers is provide useful facts, insights and ideas, he says. "Doing this requires brands to think differently about content and consumer engagement." 

Consumer Trust Doesn't Come Easy 

Consumers trust and listen to individuals with whom they have personal relationships more than brands, Friedlander says. "Consumers value each other's opinions, not brands or companies."

Brands need to build content ecosystems that inspire users to engage with each other and share insights and ideas on behalf of the brands, "to help nudge them towards a brand when it comes to purchase time," Friedlander says. "Recommendations from people you know are what count when it comes to conversion."

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Ecommerce platform Shopify, which powers more than 120,000 online retailers including Amnesty International, General Electric and Tesla Motors, says Facebook is fueling the vast majority of its orders that come from social media. More specifically, Facebook drives 63 percent of all social media visits to Shopify stores and accounts, for an average of 85 percent of all orders derived from social media, according to Shopify data based on 37 million social media visits that led to 529,000 orders.

Facebook also delivers the highest conversion rate for all social media ecommerce traffic, at 1.85 percent, according to the Shopify data. Conversion rates for Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn were all below 1 percent during the same period.

The average value of sales generated via Facebook for Shopify's stores was $55, which is below the average value of Pinterest, Instagram and Polyvore sales. Facebook dominates social orders in markets including photography, sports and recreation, pet supplies, jewelry and apparel, but it faces tough competition from other networks in the collectibles, digital products, services and consumer electronics markets.

Facebook's Burgeoning Role

Facebook's role and capabilities throughout the sales process continue to grow as it adds new targeting functionality, ad formats and technology. But can it carry its users though the entire sales funnel on the path to purchase?

"In theory, it could drive the entire process," Friedlander says, but Facebook still has issues to resolve around millennial usage and overt advertising.

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Kimberly-Clark knows the value of word-of-mouth advertising and authentic recommendations. Its products are physically touched by nearly one-quarter of the world's population every day, according to the company.

"Consumers are going to listen to other consumers," and the best content brands can provide is content that's inspired by consumers, Friedlander says. Brands need to embrace potential influencers who tell stories that promote ideas or drive awareness.

"Let's start with people and good storytelling," he says. "Brands need to leverage influencers to deliver insights and inspire consumers about the category."

Time is valuable, Friedlander says, so "brands also need to look at new forms of storytelling like the six-second story to deliver these messages to consumers quickly."

This story, "How brands can convert Facebook users into customers" was originally published by CIO.

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