These days, it’s a given that anyone involved in digital marketing understands the importance of social media, from a content and engagement perspective.

Unfortunately, a significant number of companies still believe that simply having a strong social media presence, posting content on a consistent basis and engaging with fans is going to have a positive impact on the overall ROI (return on investment) of a brand on its own.

While those elements of a social media strategy can certainly help, there is another component of your efforts that is equally important, and that’s what this article is all about.

What is is the missing link? Developing a social media marketing funnel “mindset” so that you can think like a conversion optimizer when planning and executing your social media campaigns!

As you develop a “funnel mindset” and start to view your social media profiles as part of a larger marketing funnel, you’ll be able to fine-tune your strategy, develop ongoing connections with your audience and most importantly, increase your conversions.

So, how do you actually put all of this into action? Let’s start from square one.

What Is a Marketing Funnel?

A marketing funnel is essentially the path that your customers travel through—that journey from when they first become aware of your brand, product or service to when they actually make a purchase or refer a friend.

The specific stages of a marketing funnel vary depending on who you ask or what your goals are. But just as a point of reference, one of the most popular marketing funnel frameworks is the AIDA model, which stands for “Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.” At the most basic level, your goal is to move the audience through each of those stages.

While the exact nature of a marketing funnel tends to change from industry to industry, in most cases, it begins when a potential customer realizes they have a problem that needs solving or at least becomes aware that your brand might be able to help them in some way. This applies in both business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions (like a college student looking for a midnight snack) and business-to-business (B2B) needs (like a company that needs to streamline its payroll software).

When a customer is aware they have a problem that needs outside help, they’ll start looking for general information and this is when they usually stumble upon your company.

With the help of introductory articles and information, they may then decide to learn more about what you have to offer. They carefully evaluate your offerings (and those of your competitors).

During this stage, your company has the responsibility of providing more in-depth information (such as case studies, price comparisons or even a product demo), that can help interested individuals make an informed decision.

The farther along a potential customer gets in the marketing funnel, the more in-depth their search becomes—and smart companies are there to provide the needed information that will ultimately guide a potential customer to making a purchase. By providing customers with the right information at the right moment, they’ll have the tools needed to make a decision.

Social Media as a Marketing Funnel

So how do your social media profiles fit into all of this? While social media can certainly play a valuable part in your company’s overall marketing strategy, it can also serve as its own marketing funnel that guides customers through their buying journey.

Think of what occurs when you first discover a new Facebook page. You likely stumble upon a page’s content thanks to a targeted ad, a news feed update from a friend or even a search that you conducted. If the content appeals to you, there’s a good chance you’ll follow the page. If you’re intrigued by their product or service, you might send the company a direct message or click through to visit their website.

As you continue to interact with the company through social media, you’ll be carefully guided to taking key actions—such as signing up for a newsletter or software demo. Continued engagement on social media will eventually lead you to more interactions on other social media platforms, landing pages and other locations. As their social media content helps provide information and support, you’ll eventually be able to make a purchase decision.

Of course, this is just one example of how social media can play a leading role in your marketing funnel. There are tons of other possibilities. In fact, some of the most popular social media funnels today rely heavily on paid social ads, with the goal of simply sending as much targeted traffic as possible to an optimized landing page where the rest of the conversion process takes place.

Creating Your Own Social Media Funnel

Social media can play a crucial role in guiding your potential customers through the marketing funnel. When you view your social media campaigns through the lens of your company’s overall funnel strategy, you’ll be able to create relevant, targeted content that leads to conversions, sales and referrals.

Now, you’re probably wondering, this all sounds great, but what can I do today to start thinking with a “funnel mindset?” The following key points can help you get on the right track:

  • Start with a strategy: Without a clear end-goal, your social media marketing funnel will never be successful. Determine how social media will fit into your overall marketing strategy. Is your content meant to guide customers through the entire sales process? Or is it only meant to generate awareness and bring new traffic to your landing page? Your answers to these questions should guide the type of content you share, as well as when and how you share it.
  • Focus on a few key strategies per platform: It doesn’t help to spread your social media marketing efforts too thin. Prioritize platforms based on which ones your target audience actually uses and how a particular platform fits into your funnel strategy. For example, while Pinterest’s “Buy now” button can take potential customers directly from awareness to making a purchase, this still probably isn’t the best place to promote a B2B software service. If you’re selling water bottles, solar chargers for smartphones or lace-up boots however, this seemingly minor addition could significantly improve your sales by helping customers go through the entire marketing funnel in a matter of minutes.
  • Monitor the metrics that matter: Even when your social media content aligns with various stages of the marketing funnel, you can’t take a “set it and forget it” approach. You might be confident that your content will work, but the only way to truly know is if you pay attention to your social media metrics. Trying to spread awareness on Facebook? Then you’d better watch your impressions and engagement statistics. Trying to use social media ads to get users to subscribe to your newsletter? Make sure you’re tracking the number of clicks each ad generates, and the cost per click. By evaluating the key metrics for each stage of the sales funnel, you can find out what works and tweak your content strategy to improve your results.
  • Be flexible: While your social media funnel may be focused on one particular aspect of the sales process, that doesn’t mean your visitors will view things that way. For example, your Facebook page might be primarily dedicated to spreading awareness for your product, but what will you do when someone sends you a direct message asking for more information? Such a person has clearly moved into the consideration/evaluation part of their buyer’s journey, and you’d better not leave them hanging! Just because a platform is primarily used for awareness doesn’t mean it can’t help you during the rest of the funnel as well. Look for opportunities to guide customers at any stage of their journey.

Ready, Set, Go

By now you should clearly see the importance of thinking with a “funnel mindset” when crafting your social media strategy. It might seem difficult at first, especially as you try to figure out which specific types of funnels work best for your unique audience. But don’t give up! Trial and error is just part of the process.

In the end, when you take the time to fully develop your social media marketing funnel and integrate it into your company’s overall marketing strategy, you’ll be far more likely to convert digital audiences into paying customers, while tracking it all back to specific social media campaigns. So get out the whiteboard markers because it’s time to start building funnels!