Convert followers into customers

Followers to Customers_web

November/December 2017—

Likes on Instagram and Facebook are good.
Increased store traffic is better. Here’s how to get it.

Social media marketing is booming. Companies of every size are pouring funds into developing, researching and executing a social media marketing strategy. Racking up the likes, shares and retweets on your furniture store’s latest post translates into a dopamine high that rivals the same good feelings we have after eating our favorite foods or exercising.

Growing your follower count has an instant gratification effect. However, followers alone do little for the general health and success of your store. Sure, having a ton of likes on your Instagram post feels like a small victory, but if it doesn’t lead to actual in-store traffic, which leads to revenue, this exercise of personal satisfaction is for naught.

Here are some tips to translate all of those followers into customers.

Understanding social media marketing

The potential customer base on social media is staggering. There are more than 700 million monthly users on Instagram and 320 million on Twitter, but the king of social media, Facebook, still pulls in nearly 2 billion active monthly users. Nearly seven in 10 Americans are social media users and that figure is only expected to rise as more buy smartphones and as WiFi and broadband networks expand.

Social media marketing aims to capture a share of these users. Ideally, marketing strategies target prospective customers rather than followers. The people who follow your brand on social media do so because they’re interested and enjoy your content. There are a few rules of thumb for social media content that are universal.

Consistency is critical when it comes to frequency. People want to follow channels that are actively engaged, post unique content and interact with their followers. Your content, whether that’s a tweet, photo or sponsored advertisement, should reflect your brand’s style and values and align with your overall brand mission.

Followers engage differently across apps

Use the platform your target audience uses. If you’re a B2B, there may be less value to investing any substantial time or resources into a social media strategy since your sales cannot be fully conveyed through a social platform, nor is your audience customer facing.

Not all social media apps are equal when it comes to engaging followers. A Forrester study found that Instagram has 10 times more engagements than on Facebook, and users tend to be more receptive and interested in being redirected to websites through the app than they are on other platforms. As a furniture store owner, this makes your life a little easier, provided your target audience is on Instagram and they follow you. Investing in paid shoutouts (hiring Instagram influencers to promote your product to their own followers, either for a flat fee or for a percentage of sales through their unique code) has proven to be popular and effective.

Making the transition from platform to e-commerce

The best way to get your social media followers to become customers is to incentivize them to leave the platform and move to your e-commerce channel.

On Instagram, you can add links to your Instagram Story that direct viewers to your e-commerce channel where they can purchase the product featured in your Story in the form of a “See More” swipe up button. Snapchat recently added a similar feature. Facebook allows hyperlinks within posts, which allow you to direct those viewers to the exact URL on your e-commerce channel, if your store has it, where they can buy the product they see.

Using in-app advertising

Instagram Story Ads have also recently been rolled out. Now, the reach of your Instagram Story or Live posts are extended to targeted Instagram users. Sponsored ads appear in users’ Story queues, even if they don’t follow your brand. This is a significant update that has the potential to dramatically widen your Instagram reach.

Translating Facebook followers into customers requires a different strategy. Targeted Facebook ads through sponsored posts offer you a more solid return on investment in this case. Facebook has lower rates of engagement, particularly as more young people are leaving the platform or lowering their usage as it becomes saturated with older generations. Larger brands with significant followings often offer exclusive “fan-only” coupons that incentivize Facebook users to follow the brand by offering them a coupon or discount for their first purchase.

The role of content creation

The content you put out on Facebook should balance the line between overt and covert sales tactics. While your content must be engaging, visually appealing and reach your target audience, a good percentage of your posts should feature furniture that followers can buy. Rather than offering content that simply features product X for price Y, your content should tell a story. Storytelling as a content strategy offers you an opportunity to connect with your customer and convey a representation of your brand in a way that elicits engagement.

Tell a story about the product you’re featuring. For instance, a photo or video testimony from a customer about a sofa of yours that they love and why they support your store is more engaging than a text-only listing of the product price and specifications.

Calling for user generated content, like asking for photos or testimonies—even videos of customers using your outdoor furniture or new dining table, is a great way to engage with your followers and to encourage them to purchase your products. Denoting your call to action with a hashtag that can be followed on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook allows you to track engagement and gives you content you can then re-purpose and share with your followers.

By calling for photos of your users with your product, for example, you encourage sales as a way to elicit participation. Pairing this call with a coupon or discount for said product will also likely bump up participation.

Turn passive followers into active customers

Encouraging the transition from a passive follower to an engaged customer is a process that requires your intervention. A small percentage of social media followers will likely make the transition on their own, but to grow this percentage to a more robust number, you’ll need to incentivize your followers to leave the app and move to your e-commerce channels in a frictionless way. This transition is more difficult if you only offer in-store purchase options, but offering strong incentives like exclusive discounts can help bridge the gap.

About the Author

Cassidy Welter
Cassidy Welter is a Chicago-based researcher at a consulting firm specializing in nonprofits. Find Cassidy on Twitter at @CassidyWelter.