The Role of Social Media in Community Commerce Marketing
Community Commerce Marketing5 MIN READ
In the first decade of this century, brands started exploring social media. The term social media marketing was created to describe that company-driven activity that was different from the people-driven type that started websites like Friendster, MySpace and even the early versions of Twitter and Facebook. From then until now, social media transformed the way most businesses connect with their customers.
Communication became real-time. Brands found they could reach far more people in a shorter amount of time and for relatively no cost than traditional marketing methods. And many of them amassed millions of followers on today’s primary platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
Still, the rub on social media marketing was and to some degree still is that likes don’t hit your quarterly numbers. Where is the conversion point from collecting fans and followers to converting them to customers?
The same critique is often tossed around about influencer marketing today, too. It’s really just an extension of the bigger social media argument, though. When we’re talking about influencers, we’re typically referring to those with big social media followings.
Of course, you probably know by now that CIPIO.ai has a different approach to influence through a brand’s community. But we’re still talking about social media content, content creators, and fans and followers. Some still question the convertibility of all of that to customers, sales and revenue.
This is the main problem that Community Commerce Marketing solves. It can be said that the primary function of CCM is to turn social media followers into customers, then brand advocates and ambassadors. You can build and leverage a strong community around your brand, then utilize Community Commerce Marketing techniques to turn that sense of belonging into a task. Your community members then help promote and grow the brand because they have an emotional connection to it.
But how exactly can brands do this? How can they move individuals from the label of “follower” to that of “customer?” There are both direct and indirect ways to do this, all of which should be present in your Community Commerce Marketing Strategy.
Direct Ways to Convert Followers to Customers
Let’s cut to the heart of the matter. The only real direct way to turn your social media fans and followers into customers is to present them with a direct call-to-action to buy something. Make them an offer. If you’re smart, you make them offers when the product is highly relevant, timely and solves a particular pain point they’re looking for.
This transactional approach to social media content runs counter to the general best-practices of social media marketing. Time has proven true that brands which provide engaging content that is useful to a social media audience tend to perform better at collecting fans and followers, driving online engagement and keeping brand awareness online in good shape.
However, you can go all the way back to 2008 when Dell Computers launched an entire Twitter channel just to sell refurbished and overstocked computer equipment. The @DellOutlet channel drove over $1 million in revenue for the brand that year.
That proved that while yes, social media is far more about being social for people and brands, if the product or brand is right and the audience has an interest or need, it can certainly be a transactional channel. But mixing transactions and engagement is tricky.
You have to do one to be given permission by the audience to do the other. So the direct ways to convert followers to customers is to offer coupons and discounts, exclusive deals and opportunities, and direct calls-to-action to try or buy right now.
If that’s all you ever posted, sure, you would have the coupon clippers and deal seekers engaged all the time. But you wouldn’t likely be attracting much more. This is where the Indirect ways to convert followers to customers comes into play.
Indirect Ways to Convert Followers to Customers
Social media is just that: A medium of communication where the participants are social. Social implies non-commercial. What that translates to on the social web is for a brand or business to be welcome, they have to be social.
Listen. Participate. Share. Give. Those are counter-intuitive actions for a retail, transactional mentality. But when you implement them on the social web, even as a business, you earn trust, credibility, and also permission from your newfound social friends and followers, to occasionally offer up your product or service.
What types of activities qualify as these social queues which are also indirect ways to convert followers to customers?
- Provide value through your content
Content marketing is all about giving the online audience something they want or need in the form of articles, videos, images, or activities. The content can be informative, like how to change your oil. Or entertaining. I particularly liked Planter’s recent campaign where comedians roasted Mr. Peanut.
The content can be about your product, but will be more widely consumed and appreciated if it’s more broadly useful about a topic, issue or solution. Most company podcasts, for instance, aren’t about the product. They’re interviews or discussions about industry topics, personalities or issues.
- Engage with your followers
You’ve collected these wonderful people on your social network of choice. They’re predisposed to be social (i.e. – have conversations). So ask them questions, answer theirs, engage them in conversations. As you grow, you won’t be able to have conversations with all of them, but as long as they all see you are present and accounted for, they’ll trust you’ll talk to them when need be.
Engagement can also be creating polls, quizzes and contests to grab their attention for a few moments in your feed. (And incidentally, these are great ways to migrate fans and followers to your website or share some level of personal information which moves them further down your sales funnel.)
- Create a community atmosphere
Let’s face it. A follow on a social media channel is nothing more than a virtual high-five. From a technology standpoint, all this person is doing is giving your content permission to be in their newsfeed when they login. But if you take that content and use it to draw them into activities, deeper content that provides them with value, and engage them as a group of like-minded people, you create community.
In that scenario, the follower values your content and you to the point of feeling like they belong to something bigger than themselves. That breeds loyalty and draws fans even closer to becoming customers, advocates, or both.
- Leverage Community Generated Content
One easy way to create that sense of belonging it to uplift and reward members of your community. And one simple way to do that in today’s creator economy is to use community generated content (also known as user-generated content). Asking your fans and followers if you can use their pictures and videos to show off how they use or value your brand does two things: First, it makes them the star of your social feed for a fleeting moment. Second, it makes them an extension of the brand, further solidifying their place as a member of your community.
- Provide Impeccable Customer Service
What good is all the social media engagement and content if, when a customer does turn to you for a purchase and isn’t happy? Ensuring that your product and the service that accompanies it is as unimpeachable as possible is critical to community growth and enthusiasm for your brand among your followers.
Many marketing consultants would even tell you that if your customer service discipline isn’t in tip-top shape, stop what you’re doing and fix it first. Poor customer service can be that detrimental to your success with social media audiences.
Doing each of these indirect steps creates excitement and enthusiasm for your brand. That drives more engagement from your fans and followers, but also more advocacy, recommendations and referrals from them to their friends, fans and followers. The increased interest and following leads to more people to see the occasional transactional post that pulls fans and followers over to the customer side of the equation.
The formula for social media marketing success has often been explained with the phrase, “You give to get.” By giving your time, attention and resources to produce these indirect ways to convert fans and followers to customers, you wind up with more fans and followers and greater volumes of trust which drives better outcomes for the direct methods.
What ways have you found to connect fans and followers to the path to conversion? We would love to hear more thoughts. Hit reply to the article here at CIPIO.ai or drop us a comment to tell us on this post on LinkedIn or YouTube.
To learn more about how CIPIO.ai can help you deploy the Community Commerce marketing strategies you need to move fans and followers to customers and advocates, jump over to CIPIO.ai and schedule some time to chat.
Also, don’t forget we are offering a free webinar about our Community Influence Marketing platform on Friday called Unlocking the Power of Community Influence Marketing to Grow Your Brand. It is available for you each Friday through March. Head to the link in this post at CIPIO.ai, or look for the link on our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn channels to register.