We know that endlessly trying to accumulate followers or friends doesn't work, and we know that you'll never find success just by broadcasting your latest special, deal or sale. In order to understand the process of achieving sales through social media marketing, you have to understand the social media sales funnel.
Rethinking the Sales Funnel for the Modern Marketer
The traditional sales funnel is a visual representation of how lots of leads become a few customers. It starts with a whole bunch of leads at the top. As the funnel tightens, all those leads become a smaller number of opportunities, which then become an even smaller number of prospects, which then become a comparatively tiny number of customers/sales.
This image has been handed out on the first day of Marketing 101 since forever. But to survive in the brave new world of social marketing, you'll have to unlearn all of that to make room in your mind for an entirely new funnel: the social media sales funnel.
Top of the Funnel: Followers and Friends are the New Leads
Hopefully, you've established a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. You know that just broadcasting doesn't work, so you engage your followers and friends with mutual discussions by asking questions, responding to comments and through keyword-focused hashtag campaigns.
Your social media presence is at the top of the social media funnel, where leads would have been represented in the traditional funnel. Your followers and friends on social media are interested in you or your business, they like what you're doing, they share your interests, your values or your sense of humor.
But — like leads in the old funnel — the overwhelming majority of them will never become paying customers.
Thinning Out the Funnel
Most of your social media followers will never pursue you outside of Twitter or Facebook. But you post enough informative infographics, interesting articles, funny videos and compelling pictures that, eventually, some of them will visit your blog to check out what else you have going on.
In the old funnel, these people would have been called "opportunities."
Your blog, which is always being updated, will be brimming with incredible content that proves you are an authority in your field. Clear and visible calls to action will point them to your website. Most of those who made the leap from Facebook to your blog will never click your CTAs — but some will. This is one of the reasons why it’s preferable to have a CTA directly on your social media profiles. Shopping carts like Shopify offer Facebook stores so that you can maximize your social followers and reduce attrition by not sending them away to another page for a call to action.
In the old funnel, these people would have been called "prospects."
On your website, you'll list all the specs of your product, why it's amazing and why it's better than what your competitors are offering. As with every section of the funnel, most of the people who came from your blog will stop there.
But some will continue on and buy something — and that his how social media fans become customers.
But the best part is still ahead. Here, the funnel tightens one last time to squeeze even more out of your new customers. Like every other section of the funnel, most people who make a purchase will stop there. But some will go back to social media and give you the most compelling, most effective and least expensive form of advertising ever imagined: word of mouth. But instead of telling their neighbor or doctor or their son's Little League coach how great your business is, they'll blast it to all their followers, some of whom will pass it on to their followers.
Speaker, blogger, bestselling author and 2013 Direct Marketing Hall of Fame inductee (yes, that's a real thing) Seth Godin once said “You can use social media to turn strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into salespeople.” This is the essence of the social media sales funnel. Use social media to attract a massive following. Create great content that lures those who are most likely to buy off of Twitter and onto your blog. Use your blog to whittle down the crowd even further to the ones willing to visit your website. A few of them will make a purchase and a few of them will go back to where it all started — their social media page — to tell the world how awesome you are.