Why Your Social Media Marketing Fails to Convert Followers Into Customers

You’ve listened to gurus at conferences, followed all the advice, listened to several podcasts, and have dived in head first into social media. You Tweet, Pin, Share, Like, and do all the things you see everyone else doing. You even managed to get a sizable following of people behind you but you haven’t seen a change in your bottom line. In fact, the amount of time you spend taking pictures, writing status updates, and blog posts, you might actually be losing money!

Is it all a scam? Is social media marketing the snake oil of the modern era or are you doing something wrong?  Before giving up on one of the best tools for small business to compete against corporate giants, let’s examine what you are doing with your social media marketing by asking a few questions.

The Questions

Are you using the same social media services your customers use?

Here with myself

Such a great spot, why isn’t anyone else here?

A common mistake I see when small business owners jump into social media marketing is they don’t first learn what platforms their customers are using.  Common sense and gut instinct can tell us a lot. For example, marketing on Myspace is fruitless . Trying to get anyone outside of Brazil to care about Orkut is useless. Finding teenagers to share your content on LinkedIn is pointless. Yet, you won’t ever truly know where your customers spend their time unless you ask them.

Know your customers and find out how they use social media. Are they Twitter fiends? Do they adore Yelp? Will they go nuts Pinning pictures on Pinterest?  Ask and listen before acting. Asking and listening is a theme in social media which is where a lot of companies stumble.

Are you talking at your followers or talking with your followers?

People are following you, they must want to hear all about you, right? Unless you are a celebrity, most likely people are following you for one of three reasons: you are entertaining, you are giving them something, or they want to talk to you.

Now look at what content you are putting into your social media channels. Are you entertaining? Are you providing offers for your business? Are you listening to your followers?  Social media is a conversation. Nobody likes one-sided conversations. There is a back-and-forth to a rewarding conversation and ideally a synergy where both participants walk away with new information.

If your social media content is all about you, about your business, about selling something to your followers, you probably aren’t having much success. Nobody wants to be talked at let alone sold to.  If you aren’t entertaining, giving, or listening you are probably not engaging your followers at all.

Are you writing copy better suited for press releases and ad campaigns that conversations?

Save 10% off all purchases. Buy 1 get 1. We’ve opened a new location to better serve you. All of these are examples of copy generally accepted as being effective in ads. Now look at how people react to ads in social media. See all those people complaining about ads showing up in their Facebook streams? In general people don’t like ads. Ads are important but inserting strong-arm sales tactics in people’s social space isn’t effective and people will stop interacting and engaging with your company.  Step back from the computer keyboard and imagine you are sitting with your best customer at a cafe sipping the perfect Arnold Palmer. What do you say to your customer at that moment? Do you give them the ad copy used in your latest flyer or do you use that opportunity to find out what is going on in their life and maybe, if you can help them with something, offer that assistance. Ask, listen, and respond.

Does this mean you can’t rant, rave, and promote your business in your social channels? This depends on what your company is, how big it is, and if there is a consistency in tone throughout a person’s experience with your business. If your social media is fun, entertaining, and light-hearted, your customer service and associates in your business should also have that same fun, entertaining, and light-hearted tone.   Please do rave and rant if appropriate for your company. One of my favorite Twitter accounts is @brewhouse belonging to Scotty’s Brewhouse in Indianapolis, IN.  I’ve written about Scotty’s once before in a blog post about social media marketing during GenCon. The level of engagement with this account is amazing. They do a great job in communicating with their followers, sharing joys and pains, and being responsive to what is happening around them.

Are you all flash and no substance?


This is the horn I blow when people aren’t realizing how great I am.

People who constantly blow their own horn aren’t interesting.  As a general rule, if you have to tell people you are great, something is wrong with your greatness. On Twitter one of my biggest complaints is when I follow someone who looks interesting and I get an immediate message telling me to a) follow them on another service or b) asking me to buy something from them.   Following a company in social media does not mean I am a customer. You still have to convert me from follower to customer. When I follow a company, it means they have said something interesting or are in an industry I am interested in and want hear what they have to say. If occasionally they send out a pure sales message in the channel, I’ll forgive that. They are a business after all.  If they fill their social channel with only marketing materials and seem to be deaf to their followers, they aren’t adding anything to my social stream and will be unfollowed.

Are you measuring your social media?

Sean’s Not-So-Secret
Super Basic Social Metrics

I break down each piece of content in the social channel  based on the essential type of content it is. For example if I am trying to be  clever, wry, or hilarious then I classify that piece of content as Funny. If it  is to encourage people, I label it Inspirational. If it is a random fact, news  item, or something like that then it is Informative. Content asking people to  hire me is pure Sales.  I adjust these  labels for different clients as sometimes they have a very specific category of  content that I feel needs to be broken out.

Content Types

  • Funny
  • Informative
  • Sales Ad
  • Inspirational

The Calculations

Engagement Rating

Broadcast Rating

Conversation Rating

These numbers can’t be used to compare content across  channels. Each channel’s numbers are unique to that channel due to follower  counts, how the platform shows updates to followers, and other statistical  rules that are too boring to get into in this post. The numbers do allow me to  compare content elements with each other and see what type of content my  followers interact with the most.

How many times did you post a status update, send a tweet, add a Pin, or create a Vine? What time of day did each of these things go out? What was the level of interaction with each of these things? How many times was it liked, shared, or commented on?

Those questions create the most basic dashboard for your social media. Now that you are measuring you need to analyze. What kind of things do people react to? When people give actual feedback beyond a Like, what are they saying and are you replying?

Most of the time if people feel like their social media marketing isn’t working, they aren’t measuring. They are using their feelings and not actual data. The measurement and analysis will reveal how you need to spend your time regarding social media. Maybe you are putting too much content into your channel. Or maybe you aren’t interacting enough when people are responding to your status updates. Maybe people are reaching out to you through social media regarding problems and their words are falling on deaf ears.   You can’t determine what turns a follower into a customer until you determine what excites your followers.

Are you providing a call to action to your followers?

The biggest failure of any marketing effort is not telling the person what you want them to do.  Share this content. Use this coupon. Tell us your opinion.  Not every update in your social media channels needs to have a call to action, but at least half should in one way or another. Sometimes the call to action is as simple as ‘read this’.  As annoying as I find it, all those Facebook posts asking for Likes work. They get Likes. We can debate what that really means for your company, but it shows  how responsive your followers are to your content.  Asking for action is the essential element to convert followers into customers.

When doing e-commerce for a client, we’d put together reviews of various products written by customers and include them in weekly newsletters. At first we felt like it was obvious we were providing reviews for products we were selling. Yet, the moment we added graphics and copy indicating ‘purchase at such-and-such location or via the web’ we saw a definite uptick in sales for those particular products. Up to that point, all we were doing was providing information. By adding a clear call to action, we increased conversion.  Giving someone information is incredible and is a goal of social media marketing. Letting people know what to do with the information you’ve given them creates successful social media marketing and is a goal for your company.

Are you consistent with your social updates?

The last item but certainly not the least is in regards to consistency. We can look at how often, how much, what days and all of that data but if you attend to your social media inconsistently, then it will be difficult for your followers to get in your rhythm.  If you devote 30 minutes a day to social media marketing, make sure it is the same thirty minutes or you are using  a service that let’s you schedule the updates so they appear at consistent times. There are many tools that will help do this for you

Certain services, like Twitter, have a higher need for a steady flow of content while Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn are more forgiving.  Adjust your rate of updates accordingly.


Is your social media marketing performing below expectation (fail is such a harsh word, I know, it’s okay, you’ll still get a participation trophy)?  If it is, then you need to do an audit. Analyze your social media content and answer these questions:

  • Are you addressing your customers on the social media platforms they use?
  • Are you engaging in conversation with your followers?
  • Are you creating conversational social content?
  • Are you providing interesting content to your followers?
  • Are you measuring your social media marketing?
  • Are you making a call to action when appropriate?
  • Are you consistent with your social updates?

We are looking for as many ‘yes’ answers as possible.  ‘No’ answers are areas of your marketing requiring extra attention and adjustment. If you aren’t sure where to start or aren’t sure how to conduct an audit, please contact me and we’ll see what I can do to help you out.

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