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This has become the big question, right? You’ve worked hard to build an audience on your social channels and now you want to know how you leverage that audience to generate revenue. It’s a real challenge for marketers as executives are demanding to understand the return on investment (ROI) from the social channel. Bazaarvoice reported that 74% of CMO’s predicted they would finally be able to tie social to hard ROI in 2011. Unfortunately, the reality is that many are still trying to figure out where social is impacting the bottom-line.

This has become the big question, right? You’ve worked hard to build an audience on your social channels and now you want to know how you leverage that audience to generate revenue. It’s a real challenge for marketers as executives are demanding to understand the return on investment (ROI) from the social channel. Bazaarvoice reported that 74% of CMO’s predicted they would finally be able to tie social to hard ROI in 2011. Unfortunately, the reality is that many are still trying to figure out where social is impacting the bottom-line. In order to measure the return on investment, there has to be some kind of revenue-based return. Revenue is after all the missing link to measuring ROI. Here are some tips to help you strategically turn fans and followers into revenue without becoming a pushy sales person on your social networks.

Step 1: Understand the path to conversion

If you want to generate revenue from you social channels, it is important to understand what path someone would follow to actually buy from your organization. If I click on a tweet that takes me to your blog, how would I buy? If I’m on your Facebook page, how do I buy? Every organization will have a little different conversion process based upon whether or not the user can actually buy online or the user can complete an action to become an active lead for your sales team. While the process may be different, there are still pretty similar options to optimize this path to conversion. One thing to keep in mind is that in social media you are typically engaging with people earlier in the sales cycle, so they may not be ready to buy just yet. But don’t count them out; you still have an opportunity to convert the fan or follower into something you “own.” If Facebook disappears tomorrow, you could lose all the hard work you put into building a fan base. However, if you dedicate some of your efforts to converting fans and followers into email subscribers you will maintain a marketable database that still has value even if social network preferences change over time.

Step 2: Make it super easy to buy

I see way too many fan pages that expect a fan to click on your website on the info tab and go look for your products to buy them. We are lazy, so if you don’t make it super easy for us to buy, we won’t. The first step in optimizing your path to conversion is to make it super easy for people who are interested in your products or services to buy. Try to optimize your path to conversion to have no more than 2 clicks before the user is on a sales related page from content that is published on the social channel. For example, the user clicks on the link to our blog in the social channel then the user clicks on our call to action that appears on the blog post to get to our landing page. For Facebook I recommend having a landing page built right into one of your Facebook tabs. If you can keep the experience on Facebook people are more likely to convert.

Step 3: Add clear call to actions

The easiest way to quickly optimize your path to conversion is to add clear call to actions on your blog and Facebook landing pages. This ensures that every status update you send with a link to your site has an opportunity to turn into revenue, quickly and efficiently. Don’t stop with a single call to action. Remember, social media leads are at various stages in the buying cycle. Make sure offer two types of call to actions.

  1. Soft lead – A soft lead is someone who has provided their contact information in return for a piece of content. They have said they are interested in your content, but not necessarily your product or service.
  2. Hard lead – A hard lead is the type of lead you have been generating for years. It is someone who has provided their contact information for information about your products or to receive special offers on your products and services.

If you work to generate both soft leads and hard leads you will fill your pipeline with leads at various stages in the buying cycle. If you combine this with a strong email marketing strategy on the back-end you will be generating revenue quicker than you thought was possible.

Step 4: Focus on increasing site traffic

Now that you know you can convert social media traffic into leads it’s time to focus on driving more site traffic from the social media channel. The quickest way to drive traffic is to publish relevant content for your followers. Focus on what type of content you are developing for your blog. Is it highly interesting and relevant for you audience? Is it something they would want to share with their own networks? Generating content that people want to share will help to quickly increase site traffic and provide more opportunities to convert fans and followers into leads.  We’ve found that when a follower shares content to their networks through SocialToaster they send an average of 3 visits to that content, but really interesting content can easily send 20-30 visits.

Step 5: Consider a corporate sponsor

If you have developed a loyal and devout fan base on your social channels, there are other organizations who are interested in getting exposure to them. Makers of consumer products will pay for a sponsorship to get in front of the right audience. If your organization has vendors or suppliers who are looking to gain exposure to your network, you may have an opportunity to offer a sponsorship. Just make sure you don’t sell out to a sponsor. It can be really strange to have status updates from a sponsor on your social networks. Rather, look for an opportunity to highlight the sponsor on pages that you use to drive social media traffic back to your site. Finding a corporate sponsor to participate in your SocialToaster® program can be a natural fit for some organizations. The sponsor can easily be highlighted on the sign up page and you can cleverly name your program to incorporate the sponsor information.

The best way to turn fans and followers into revenue is to make sure you’ve made the conversion process easy, regardless of which social network they prefer. Then it’s all about driving more traffic to your channels and making it easy for fans and followers to share your content.

What do you think? Have you found something that works to generate revenue from the social channel? Are you struggling to show the return of your social channel? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below.

SocialToaster® is a message amplification tool that allows you to recruit your loyal super fans to sign up as Toasters who syndicate your status updates directly to their own social networks…with permission, of course.