12-MINUTE READ · By Tina Arnoldi
Elias St. Elmo Lewis, an advertising pioneer in the late 1800s, is known for the AIDA model, commonly used today in marketing to represent the stages of the consumer journey – awareness, interest, desire and action, each of which has a place for social media.
Although there are marketing models available other than AIDA, the same principle applies. People need to know who you are, become interested in learning more, engage with you, consider what you have to offer and ideally take action. Whichever model you prefer, keep these general principles in mind.
“Social media is great for awareness, but it does not result in any sales.” I understand that argument and have said it myself. Although social media may not result in immediate sales, there is still a place for it in business. I want to offer suggestions for utilizing it in each stage of the funnel, starting with A for Awareness and I for Interest.
The appeal of social media as a tool for brand awareness is straightforward. You can easily get a brand name out there and hopefully have people become interested in it. Even in this easier phase of the funnel, you cannot ignore strategy. There are millions of brands and individuals pushing out content so you need to find ways to stand out among the noise.
This is a stage where Facebook can be helpful. Even though people may be on Facebook for lighthearted social activity, it is a channel where a significant portion of the population spends time. If you can get their attention with a compelling ad or shared content from one of their friends, this can at least get them to enter the funnel. People may become aware of you because one of their friends is a fan of your page.
With Facebook or any social channel, you may need to do some paid ads to build up that initial audience (especially if your industry is boring). Share content that is educational and helps people do their jobs or manage their households. As the audience builds, continue pushing out content that people want to share.
But people are not going to share just anything with their friends. For example, content on the top five features that won a reward is not going viral. People want to share helpful content that got them to like you. It may be content that made people laugh or invited them to enter a contest. This is the stage where you have to remember that it is not about your products and services. We all think we do great things but people are not online looking for us to share how awesome we are.
Although paid social media is a must, you can build awareness organically by searching for relevant hashtags and taking part in the conversation. Do so to add value, not for promotion. Share attention-getting images and invite conversation in your posts.
There are more channels than just Facebook. The hashtag suggestions are useful across other platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. But do not ignore video as a channel for awareness. The above image from Pew Research Center shows the YouTube is the top channel used by adults.
With the significant number of people using it, it is a great platform for reaching an audience and maximizing impact with options for measuring performance across the funnel as seen below.
And yes, even B2B companies can benefit from YouTube. As the second large search engine and a platform owned by Google, it can improve search rankings. It provides an opportunity to offer product demos to people not ready for a one-to-one sales call and a place to offer tips for existing clients. It is also a channel for demonstrating thought leadership with recordings of conference presentations.
Once you entice people to jump into the funnel with awareness tactics, you still need to have the next step. What will you do once they enter the funnel? Encourage behavior that will keep them moving through to the end where they make that conversion.
A new audience is aware of you. Now what? Your next step is to create interest by being interesting (obviously), which we know is tough to do for boring brands. One thing we all share is the human experience. For example, everyone wants to save time. If there is something about your product and service that helps people save time, that will get interest. Your features and benefits may not be enough to get interest, but the way you address that pain point of ‘saving time’ is what will keep people’s attention.
Tell a story about how you can save time by sharing engaging images. If you do not have access to a graphic designer, use a tool such as photo-editor.canva.com/ to create attention-getting images to support your story. When you consider potential images for your brand, use your own experience. Do those images get your attention? Do they support the message? Refraining from using images for the sake of using images.
In the interest stage, prospects may not have connected with you on social media, but they do observe your activity. They do not have to fan, follow, or like to know what you do. This is why you have to respond to your existing fans and followers, especially when it is negative. If prospects do not see your brand engage with an existing social media network, it implies you may not be that available or that interested after the sale. As a result, they will not move to the next stage.
The bottom line: Get them into the funnel and give them a reason to stay!
At this stage, prospects are moving along in your funnel to desire, or consider, what you offer. They are closer to conversion, but not there yet so you need to stay connected, inviting them to learn more about you with additional content.
Although blog posts are a good tactic, it can be one way, if people read content and do not comment or perform any CTA. Mix up your content to include types that invites engagement from the audience. One tactic is to offer a free webinar which can serve as an educational piece and a teaser for what else you offer. Since people ask “What’s in it for me?” at all stages of the funnel, they may not tune into a one hour presentation about your features. Another engaging tactic is live chats that invite Q&A. It answers questions that may keep people from moving along while demonstrating your expertise.
Although you reveal more about your offer as they move through the funnel, your messaging still use “you” language. Rather than “We offer….”, try “You will….” to emphasize what they will receive from you. Ask the “So what?” question with all content. If you want to highlight a big award you won this year, ask “So what?” to stay in the mind of prospects. That will keep you focused on how that award will help the customer rather than the act of you receiving it.
Incorporate consider remarketing on social to get people closer to action. You have an audience that engaged that already knows you. They need to hear from you with a new message. Include more detail about your product or service, maybe with a comparison to the alternative to show why you are unique. Why are you a better option than your competitors?
You want to stay on their radar with engagement and influence them to move forward. They may be very close to taking action so you want to minimize any leaks in your funnel by measuring performance and pivoting when needed.
Now you are closer to making some money because your prospect is close to taking action. The length of this stage depends on your industry and business model. With B2C clients, they may make a purchase quickly since it may be a lower dollar amount or something they use personally. With B2B clients, there will be more steps, such as filling out lead gen forms, talking to an internal team, and having several calls with a sales rep. This is why your measurement plan should include micro (form fill) and macro (revenue) conversions.
When you are ready to ‘make an ask’ with more direct messaging, ensure the page you direct them to from your social channels is very simple and easy to navigate. Social media is a platform for short conversations. People quickly scan their phones on the go, deciding very quickly if they want to continue, but marketers occasionally forget this when it comes to the landing page. The landing page has to be short and easy to scan just like the social post.
It is easy for all of us as consumers to complain about about a brand that does not provide good service and to share our complaints with everyone in the universe. Brands need to be aware that the relationship does not end when the purchase is made so they should cultivate advocates to avoid complaints that may spread on social.
As consumers, we can use our voices to advocate for brands that are doing well. This is something I do for brands I like, such with Namecheap, just to let them know I appreciate their customer support. People who consider them may seek out this social proof.
I can give this feedback to them sincerely because they value my business and want to keep it. They pay attention to existing customers. Brands sometimes go after influencers and pay for them to amplify their messaging. But when they treat existing customers well, they organically build up recommendations for their brand.
Brands can providing tips that help customers make the most out of what they purchased rather than just upsell. A private group where customers can talk to each other is market research for a brand and offer an added service for customers. Brands can also reward customers with sneak peeks at what’s coming next with an option for early access.
The point is to not neglect customers on social media. They need to remember why they chose you and to get that continued reassurance that it was the right choice. If you do not do that, they will still engage with you on social media – but only to complain.
Social media may not be a direct sales tool especially in the B2B world. Done well, it can help you get found so you can that trust with a targeted audience.
Most brands will not need to be on every channel and it may not make sense for their specific business strategy. The best approach may be only a couple of channels that are geared toward the right demographics and can be done well with existing resources.
A channel that seemed like a win may not be one in the long run so it is okay to put less emphasis on it and redirect efforts towards another channel instead. Don’t try to force a channel or strategy when it is not right for a particular brand.
Build that brand value through awareness before asking your audience to make a commitment of any kind. Give thought to content for each stage and remember that it is always about the audience and rarely about you.
About Tina Arnoldi
Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and AdWords Qualified and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert(GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn.