How to Convert a Social Media User into a Buyer

Have you ever wondered why your digg or stumble traffic does not buy your stuff when on your website? Here is the foundation to my view on how you should go about converting social media users into buyers in theory. In later posts I will talk about how you should do this practically.

Previously I have been talking about The Mindset of an Online Consumer in Social Media in a previous entry. This entry however will take a deeper look into how you make your social media user become a returning customer just as you are converting your SEO-traffic today. If you are not converting your SEO-traffic today, well, then perhaps this will give you some insight too.

The Value Staircase of Online Business
The Suspect
As a user enters your website, regardless of source and your aim is to convert this user into a buyer, that user for you is a Suspect. You have no idea of who it is more than what you can tell from your analytics tool. Sometimes that is a lot, but most of the time not enough to know what kind of offer this person is out to get.

The Prospect
If the user entered from the search engine, you might know what keywords they used. Are those keywords “buyer” keywords such as “wanna buy your stuff right now” it would be an indication that a user wants to buy your stuff. That user has then taken a step in the ladder and has become a Prospect. Similarly, if your user enters from some other website or via direct referral, but starts klicking buttons such as “products” or “payment details” or perhaps even “terms of service”, that user indicates some kind of interest in buying your stuff.

The Lead
The next step in the staircase is the Lead. A user converts into a Lead whenever they leave some kind of personal information to you that can identify them and enables you to contact them again at a later stage. Ie. a Lead can be an e-mail address, a name and a phonenumber, a license plate or basically anything that gives you access to contact data of that person.

The Conversion
Bonus and Jackpot! We’ve now reached the phase where you start making money. As soon as a user makes a transaction, a buy or any kind of final goal you set out for your site users, they have become a Conversion.

The Returning
If you have a user that has converted once and then come back to convert again, you also have a Returning customer. These are the highest valued users in all of your traffic. Returning customers are often satisfied users. Satisfied users are generally net promotors of your business.

The Buyer and The Information Seeker
Enough about the value staircase of online business. It is time to take a look at two types of traffic that you get to your website. There are several other types of traffic, but we’ll only handle these two big groups in this post.

The Buyer
Generally entering your website from the search engine on keywords that are related to your products. Either general product categories or even stronger -> specific brands. If in combination with a “support keyword” such as “online store + brand name”, then you sure as hell got a buyer on your website.

A buyer can also be identified based on how they click on the website. If they enter and the first thing they do is to click – “Offers” – then you can be pretty sure you have got a buyer. It is not as rock solid as the keyword indication, but is definitively strong enough to bulk that person with the buyer group.

Buyers are there to buy stuf if you’ll just let them do so swiftly and easily. The buyer has a ME perspective, ie. they have a problem that they need to solve -> they need to buy something and get out of there. They are in other words highly pupose driven users.

The Information Seeker
In contrast to the buyer, the information seeker behaves completely differently on your website. Usually an information seeker enters your website through a referring domain or through keywords with word combinations such as “where to..” or “how to..” or perhaps even “compare ..”.

When you recieve traffic from a social media website it is generally, or most absolutely information seekers. Why you might ask? Well they came to your website when clicking a link posted by another user telling a story of some sort interesting enough for the now visiting user to click on it. I can say this complies to 99% of the traffic you recieve from social media websites except for one type of traffic and that is the SPAM traffic.

[Regardless of what anyone says. If your company has adopted a SPAM strategy for your social media activities you will sell stuff. Sometimes even a lot of stuff will be sold depending on if your product is a elastic or an inelastic product. But your SPAM tactics will hurt your brand. So, if your products value lies within its brand, then I wouldn’t recommend this strategy. Your choice however lies within calculating what tactic will meet your short term and long term goals.]

Back to the issue at hand. Information seekers are not your website to buy. Actually, they might not even know why they are on your website else than that they clicked an interesting link and ended up there. What you will find however is that this target group of people will link, bookmark, share, comment and go bananas with your content if they like it.

Simply put, they are there to find out cool stuff, and if they do find this out, they will scare the living crap out of you as they share your content with others in their own personal way. They are on your website with a WE perspective and thus think about everyone else and how your content can be shared whilst on your website. They are in other words research driven users.

How to Convert the Buyer and the Information seeker
This is when this post starts becoming interesting as this is the question everyone asks me and I seem to be the only one bold enough to give a straight answer about it.

First of all you need to split your conversion process into several pieces and really think about how to make your user climb the ladder. Here is what I have found works for the different groups. I have displayed this with words in the “arrow blocks” above.

The Buyer Buys when:

  1. They come to your website as suspects because you had good SEO or Social Media Optimization (SMO)
  2. They become prospects because your design, features, information architecture complies with their liking
  3. They become a lead because they seem to like what you offer to solve their problem or purpose for being on the website
  4. They convert if it is easy enough to convert -> CRUCIAL try to take away all hurdles for a lead converting. It should be like a walk in the park or even less of an effort…
  5. They become a returning customer if they like the stuff you sold them the last time

The Information seeker buys when:

  1. They come to your website as a suspect because you or someone else has provided them with an interesting link -> good SEO or SMO
  2. They become prospects the second they enter the website and starts clicking around, if they bookmark your website, if they write a blog post about it or…
  3. The thing that will convert them into leads however is whether or not you spark their curiosity. In contrast to the buyer information seekers are boosted by curiosity and being updated on good content and stories. Example: If you try converting a buyer they want the best offer -> a bonus or a discount. The kind of phrasing you should use are such as “Register to get super bling bling for FREEEEEE”. If you try converting an information seeker on the other hand you should want to try with the approach “Enroll to our e-mail updates to know what happens when it happens”. (perhaps not the best copy, but I think you see the difference)
  4. Then it is all about reliability. KEEP YOUR PROMISES no matter how small. If you say you’ll keep people updated -> keep people updated. DO NOT try to sell stuff through this e-mail subscription. Cause I tell you, as soon as you break a promise, they will be ruthless towards you. They will give you as much shit as they gave you praise and as we all know, bad smell travels fast. As your users are able to rely on you. When they see you live up to your transparent intentions. THEN they will buy from you. And they will not buy the cheapest stuff in the shelves. They will buy whatever you tell them to buy. They trust you, and as long as you are up front with your offer, they will buy from you as they know you know your stuff. And I know you have all felt this once or twice. You see value in stuff that isn’t actually practical value, but artificial or social value. A shoe is a shoe, but a shoe with a swoosh is just a little bit better and so I’ll pay more for it.
  5. Now to the easy part. Now you’ll just have to nurture your relationship with this individual. This means admiting to mistakes, not bragging to much, keeping in touch on a regular basis and just being that soulful and trustworthy dude you’d ask to babysit your kids. Maybe not that much of a trust, but at least the kind of trust that makes you belive in the “Gates” or the “Jobs” religion.

Well, the main point I want to put across is that you will have to know the difference of the kinds of traffic you get to your website and then treat this traffic dependently on what kind of visitor they are. People say it is impossible to make diggers into buyers. I strongly disagree. It might take a bit more time to have them buy your stuff. But when they do start, my god, they will buy whatever you recommend as long as you tell them what they get.

Trust me. They will even buy from you if you tell them “This is the worst deal around and it is a huge freakin’ hassle. But it is sooo totally worth it.”

[I recognize this post has some holes every here and there. Please help me fill them in.]


15 thoughts on “How to Convert a Social Media User into a Buyer”

  1. Jesper!

    Great post. However I do think you’re not calculating enough with out on one very important factor – The Brand.

    The first thing that will happen if we’re talking a pricy product/service is recognition. Have I seen this brand before, what does it mean to me, what emotional feelings does the brand ignite in my brain.

    Once those aspects has been checked the visitor will move on. From there on I totally agree with every single thing in your post.

  2. @Judith & @Chris – 🙂 thank you sincerely!

    @Johan – Yes. Brands do have an important role in pricy or in otherwise elastic products/segments. But my major point is that no matter what kind of brand you are, you will have to focus on sparking curiosity and maintaining reliability if you want to sell products to information seekers.

    I am not sure we are saying different things, but as you are a skilled writer I would like you to write a post to take the topic to the next level! 🙂


  3. great post! Regarding brands. Brands is among a few other things built from what you Do and how you Do it. For instance how you meet your audience. Then following Jespers guidelines would be an important part of brand Building .

  4. Like your writing style – have left similar post on LinkedIn:

    Hi Jesper, good question.

    I think both groups should be treated in a similar way as information seekers could well return to br buyers. Companies should not be ‘selling’ (in a traditional hard sell scenario) to customers over the net anymore, but instead be inviting them to view their products, with the knowledge that they have a great product and great recommendations from customers.

    Recommendation is now a more powerful tool than it has ever been and some recent studies have shown that advertising, especially on social media sites can adversely affect consumer purchasing decisions. Therefore, when someone visits a site there is a good chance that they have already been recommended to buy, which to some degree negates the traditional online buying processes.

    Of course, when it comes to buying, your customer should find it an easy process, hopefully only needing to complete one form, and should be followed up with an email / twitter etc to ascertain their views on the products and service they received.

  5. @Björn – thanx, and thank you for clarifying. You have a way to explaining my thoughts to me that my brain doesn’t seem to have 🙂 Glad to have you as my colleague now too!

    @Mike – as I wrote in the LinkedIn Group, I really wish to get a hold of the data/reports that you have so that we can continue building a good model. Previous encounters with a brand and recommendation built purchases are extremely important as that user group really adds another kind of value to products and services.

    Recommendations – buyer to buyer are some of the strongest value adding instances in consumer behavior on the web. I only have the data from the viral campaigns I have performed within some segments. If you have general data I would really like some links so that I can dig into that material right away.

    Thanx for the feedback!


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