Social Media is About Conversation, Not Conversion

With the growing focus on return on investment (ROI), it should not be a surprise many companies could start looking at sales as an increasingly important metric for success.

This, however, would be a mistake because social media is not a hard sales medium. This is not to suggest it can’t be used to encourage sales but social media does not work well if a primary goal is closing deals.

Nevertheless, this may not stop many companies from thinking otherwise because, after all, what’s the use of doing social media if it doesn’t benefit the bottom line.

The reality, at least if you follow best practices, is that social media is about conversation not conversion. Sure, conversation is over-used member of the social media mantra but it’s probably the best way to describe the way social media can be effectively used to start and build relationships with consumers.

Social media is a way for companies to get their foot in the door. It’s a way to make consumers aware of who you are and what you do. If it can capture someone’s attention, there is an opportunity to educate, entertain or engage them with relevant or interesting content. And then there might be a chance to convert them into customers.

In many respects, this process is like dating. It’s impossible to meet someone at a party, and then marry you the next day – unless, of course, you’re partying in Las Vegas. In a normal situation, you meet someone, go on a few dates to get to know them better, and then see where the relationship leads. Maybe you get married in the future, maybe not but it takes time to get there.

When social media works well, it offers a variety of ways to encourage consumers to think differently about a company, and their products and services. It could be how a company answers questions, provides valuable resources, handles customer service, or provide relevant information.

At the end of the day, all these things contribute to convincing a consumer to start thinking about buying a company’s products or services – aka the “soft sell”.

Selling soft doesn’t mean not selling effectively or well. It means being measured and patient when dealing with consumers. It means not looking for the instant sale even when it looks so close you can taste it. Consumers can smell desperation, and the more you try to “hard sell” them the more your chances of doing so start to disappear.

4 Comments on “Social Media is About Conversation, Not Conversion”

  1. Pingback: Only here for the banter | Plain Advice

  2. Ok, so lets agree that conversion isn’t the primary goal of social media. But let’s also agree that there has to be goals and metrics applied to it to measure its success. Too often I hear the “its not about conversion” argument by the social media crowd and it ends there. I have always read that as meaning, “Yes we know we cant define our value but we’re having fun tweeting and don’t want to do other more tedious measurable work”. Traditional customer support (social media’s less attractive sibling) is also about conversation but has a laundry list of measures that are applied to it.

    Eventually, if social media practitioners want acceptance and corporate buy-in (re: resources), they will need to show what they are contributing to the success of the organization – just like everyone else. It doesn’t have to be conversion, but it does have to be some measure that demonstrates it value.

    1. Dean,

      You’re right, there does need to be a reason to do social media. It can’t be about having fun with cool tools, otherwise why do it. I think there’s a balance between conversation and conversation that makes every happy – consumers and the corporate bean-counters. 🙂 Thanks for the comment. Mark

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