The ability to convert traffic from any kind of source has challenged web marketers for the past decade. In the beginning there were trust issues with online payments, then there was the problem with poor landing pages. Most lately, people are struggling to convert ‘friendly’ social media traffic, including Facebook users, into customers. Facebook is probably the smartest invention since sliced bread. We have seen it pop up from virtually nowhere to a dominant position in the online sphere in the past few years, and naturally the greed in our marketing hearts makes us wonder how we can exploit this miracle machine for our own gains. Some of us have tried ads on Facebook and have seen positive CTRs and conversion rates.
Sadly, a likely assumption is that these encouraging results will evaporate shortly as Facebook users turn from being research driven into being purpose driven. Remember, banners worked great on websites in the beginning, but as users started having a purpose to go online rather than to just surf they also started to ignore content that didn’t interest them – including banners and other ads. It may not take a long time before a similar pattern will evolve on Facebook. Some Facebook groups, pages and applications have produced really great results. The general pattern though is that it is not the page itself that generates the conversion but the activities you engage the users in that create conversions. Events that serve to involve the user in the purchasing process have shown great promise. In the future it is possible that we will see the Facebook traffic convert similar to the patterns that we see for Google traffic. But we are not there yet.
Going Viral With Facebook
Open Graph: As Facebook released its Open Graph they made all the data and interactions between users available outside of the Facebook platform. The future of Facebook is more like what YouTube is today. 20% of the interaction happens on the platform, 80% occurs on other websites. This is not only a massive move for Facebook but it is also a great asset for those of us who have the ability to react quickly from a marketing and sales perspectives. Have you ever wanted to get a system like Amazon on your ecommerce website? Well, that is basically what Facebookʼs Open Graph can give you. Even with the simplest implementations you will be able to increase your conversion rates based on a theory that people tend to conform to the actions of their ‘friends’ and peers.
Conformity: The logic behind why ‘rate and review systems’ increase conversion is still in debate. Basically, the theory and empirical studies suggest that we as humans are to some extent unsure about what we believe to be reality or the truth. We turn to groups to find reassurance on our decisions and choices. Already in 1951, S.E. Ash showed that people put in a room with other people might start responding irrationally to the simplest of questions. For example, Ash put 9 college students in a room and they were given a series of tasks. All of the participants except for one were told to give the wrong answer to a large set of obvious questions comparing the length of a line to that of three choices A, B or C. 123 people were tested. The 9th, and unprepared person gave the wrong answer about 1% of the time when being subject to a group where everyone gave the correct answer. When the group was manipulated however, a staggering 36% of the 9th persons started to conform to the group answer rather than make up their own minds about what they thought was the correct response. Research since this time has shown strong results similar to this one and the field of study is broadening due to advances made in behavioral economics and social psychology.
Facebook and conformity: Naturally, it is not a good thing to start manipulating your customers into making poor decisions. Facebook’s Open Graph, however, allows you to use the actions of other users on your own website to better the chances of motivating another user doing to do the same thing. On Amazon.com you are being continuously hammered with lists of what other people interested in the product have already done. This is a great way to implement the theory of conformity on your customer’s decision process. “Someone who bought this, also bough this…”. Now, Facebook’s Open Graph puts this system on steroids by using the Facebook social graph instead of using unidentified people. “59 of your friends purchased this, 55 of them liked their purchase.” This gives the user the ability to reinforce the wisdom of their purchase decision, and at the same time have the possibility to contact any one of the 59 friends to get further information before they buy, thus making the purchase event social and even more viral.
This is really where you need to be looking when thinking of conversion and social media. Going viral with facebook, do not think so much about what to do with the traffic, but think more of what you can achieve in terms of utilizing information and social patterns found in the social networks to increase the perceived value of your offering. That way you will both increase sales from social media and other traffic sources as well.