Converting Facebook fans into sales is possible by ensuring smooth conversion, experimenting with tools other than Posts and spending a little money on the social network to gain more impact, say social media practitioners.
However, businesses must note that monetizing their fanbase should only come after they have an engaged audience. Bryan Woodruff, business development manager at Web site developer 360 PSG, said businesses need to capture a relevant audience and keep them engaged is a necessary before they generate revenue from the fans.
What Facebook managers need to improve on
According to Loomer, brand managers often focus on the wrong data. "For example, Facebook Page managers go out of their way--often doing unethical things--to increase Likes. This number means nothing. Buying 'Likes' or exchanging 'Likes' does not increase the number of potential customers," he said.
Woodruff added that some brands purchase followers from companies selling a "bot" network of fake Facebook accounts. While fake followers might boost a Page's follower count, they are not able to engage with posts through "Likes", shares or comments, which can drive down the Page's engagement score, making it less likely for content to reach legitimate accounts, he said.
Loomer added that the reach of a Facebook post is another metric that has been given too much focus.
"To me, 'reach' is an imaginary number that can't be proven and is not an indicator one way or another of success. When Facebook announced that the typical page reached 16 percent of fans with their posts, people freaked...When Facebook then tweaked EdgeRank to make News Feeds more relevant and cut out spam, the number was cut down below 16 percent for many. People freaked again.
"But for many Pages, engagement has either remained the same or gone up. Engagement, after all, is what's most important," he added.
1. Set specific goals and measurement tools.
Erin McMahon, director of social media at Vest Advertising Marketing and Public Relations, added that having engaging fans does not mean much if the company does not reach its goals. "You likely have many broad goals for your Facebook Page, but as far as determining how to get a return from your Page, you'll need to identify specific goals," she said.
McMahon explained that goals can be considered as conversions which an act of "converting" people who are interested in the brand or product into people who take a desired action such as buying a product.
Once brand managers know how they want to convert their fans, they need appropriate tools to measure their results. "You can do this manually using Facebook's Page Insights, with third-party tools, or with the help of a digitally savvy agency," she said.
Woodruff said brand managers need to use Web analytics to track traffic sources, to find out how much traffic actually came from Facebook. "Conversion goals should be set up around shopping carts and 'Contact Us' forms. These conversions should be tied to traffic sources in monthly reporting.
"Marketers should know exactly where business leads and sales originated. This way they can justify and adjust the effort they're putting into their social media channels," he said.
2. Be explicit and ensure conversion works
When posting a call-to-action, McMahon said brand managers need to be explicit about what the fans need to do. "Tell people what you want them to do. It's fine to be funny or cute, mysterious or pithy, but be sure you're not omitting the critical next step for your fans," she said.
"Make sure your conversion form works and is easy to understand...You'd be surprised how often big brands make significant mistakes that leave their would-be converts confused or frustrated. Make sure every link works, every step is clear," she added.
McMahon advised brands to test different ways of posting, but only one at a time. "You may be getting good results posting once a day every day of the standard business week. How do you know you couldn't be getting great results posting only on Mondays and weekends? Do the work to find the right timing and other variables for your brand," she said.
A whitepaper by Buddy Media said companies should post more on weekends as the rate of interaction is 14.5 percent higher compared to weekday posts. "Facebook fans like to use the social network when they have downtime, which is why the weekends tend to receive such high interaction rates," it explained.
4. Use tools other than Posts
Woodruff said Page managers can use tools such as Facebook Tabs to offer interactive tools to help customers find product or make buying decisions. He said iframe, which is an HTML tag that embeds another document into an HTML page, is used to achieve this.
Jon Loomer, founder and CEO of digital marketing company Jon Loomer Digital, noted that tabs can be used to explain more about the brand, to feature products or to run contests. Tabs are targeted at loyal fans as typically only 2 percent of fans would visit a Page, he said.
Woodruff added that some e-commerce retailers have begun to add "Like" and share buttons to their e-commerce product pages which allows shoppers to promote product they like directly to their personal connections.
5. Go beyond free tools
Loomer believes that brand managers should invest in Facebook advertising as well. "Any business serious about making money needs to invest and you don't need to spend much to make an impact," he said.
He highlighted a Facebook tool called "Custom Audience" which allows brands to create a Facebook ad targeting known customers to announce a new product. Advertisers can upload a list of e-mail addresses to Facebook, for example a list of customers who have bought a specific product, and this will facilitate targeted advertising when these users log on.
Erik Johnson, vice president of Facebook in Asia-Pacific, said Page managers can use domain ads on Facebook to drive traffic outside of the social network to a landing page to convert consumers. He said this is useful to help new customers discover a Web site, to highlight users' interaction on the Web site and to promote the site to users' friends.
"Combining the use of domain ads and social plugins, Myntra.com, an online fashion and lifestyle portal from India, had seen a 75 percent increase in total website traffic from Facebook in the last 6 months and a 25 percent increase in sales driven by Facebook," he said.
The Facebook vice president added that Facebook Offers can help drive in-store traffic through an online offer. He highlighted Lawson, one of the largest chain of convenience stores in Japan, which used Facebook Offers to advertise a fried chicken promotion. "Their efforts helped drive in-store traffic and increase spending per person. The result was 70 percent of customers who redeemed the Offer also bought other products," he said.