How User-Generated Content Can Drive Facebook Acquisition

What? I can use Facebook for new customer acquisition? Isn’t Facebook just for “brand exposure” and almost impossible to measure?

Well, today I’m going to describe an easy and proven method to leverage your existing customers to turn Facebook into a (qualified) traffic machine. We’ll discuss some reasons why this works so well, and then move on to the actual tactics.

One of the most critical concepts to understand is the social long tail. Many of you may be familiar with the idea of the long tail as articulated in the book by the same name written by Chris Anderson. Basically, it’s that lots of “smalls” add up to more than a few “bigs.”

For example, take keyword research. The term “car” is a big term with tons of search volume (known as a “fat head” term). But the phrase “small yellow car in Cleveland” is a long tail term with a small amount of search volume. Collect hundreds or thousands of these long tail terms, however, and you could wind up with a combined volume that far exceeds the volume of a few fat head terms.

Now consider this in the context of Facebook. We all know the “fat heads,” don’t we? Big celebrities, giant KLOUT scores and those considered influencers. Not bad if you can get it, but expensive—and it requires a lot of work.

On the other hand, think about the long tail. Every single one of your customers is on Facebook and, by definition, is an influence on someone.

Remember what you learned about the long tail theory.

To paraphrase Wikipedia:

The distribution and inventory costs of businesses successfully applying this strategy allow them to realize significant profit out of selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. The total sales of this large number of “non-hit items” is called the Long Tail.

Now think about this in terms of social media marketing. There are relatively few high influencers; they are often difficult and expensive to reach; and encouraging them to promote your message can be a challenge. On the other hand, there are millions upon millions of low influencers who are relatively easy and inexpensive to reach. And if they are your current customers, they are usually happy to promote your message.

What we all have to remember is that the traditional definition of “influence” is inaccurate. Most of us mistake people with the most fans for those who have the most influence. In fact, I’ll argue that for most businesses, the people with the most fans are the least influential.

Think about your own life. Who’s the bigger influence when you are buying a camera? Ashton Kutcher, who promotes Nikon, or someone you actually know and trust who gives you a recommendation based on her own real-life experience? That friend is in the social long tail, and is highly influential to a small group of people.

Now multiply that one person by 100 or 1,000 or 1,000,000 and you start to see the power of the social long tail.

How to do it
The actual tactic to capture this amazing engine of growth is as simple as email. Most social strategy is based on hope—this one is based on the ask.

Whenever a customer makes a transaction, send an email thanking the person for the interaction, and then ask a question that draws out a story.
I’m not necessarily talking about a review, but more of an actual story. What you want is to have your customers create content that they would want to share. People will share content that is about them long before they will share content that is about you. Reviews are often too company focused. They are, “Hey what do you think of us” vs. “Why did you buy this?” or “What was the most unusual use you found for this?” Think about getting the customer to offer some insight that others will see on Facebook and respond to.

Pictures are really good for prompting stories. So think about asking for pictures first and then asking people to describe the picture. “Check out this from Patagonia. I bought this belt and it’s great. It also has a special buckle that doubles as a bottle opener!” (What a waste to ask me for a review. I’m not doing it. Ask me for a picture of me opening a beer!)

Review, add links, edit and post to your blog.
Your blog is the hub of your social media marketing strategy. All of these stories need to be put somewhere publicly, and blogs make the perfect repository. A couple of things to remember, however: First, make sure you have good, relevant calls to action on your blogs. I can’t tell you how often this is missed. You get about 80% of your blog traffic from first-time visitors—and you don’t give them any way to convert? Make sure you offer the visitor some way to move deeper into the relationship. A lot of merchants don’t think of blogs as something that converts, and that’s a big mistake.

Second, remember that you are allowed to amend, edit and add links to any customer stories that come your way. Think about keywords that drive your business. If the customer is mentioning the product or service, link that phrase to the relevant pages on your site. I often see things as simple as, “Here is a great picture of one of our customers on a recent camping trip. Notice the great way he’s using his new Web Belt?” Of course, add a link to the belt in the post.

This kind of content is great because it’s real, it’s frequent, it portrays situation stories that couldn’t be made up by your marketing department—and it offers terrific SEO benefits.

Use the follow-up email to ask.
This is where the ask comes in. When your customer gives you content that you post to your blog, follow up immediately with another email that includes a big fat SHARE button. Your customer is thinking, “You just featured MY story on your website—hey, that’s cool. If you give me the opportunity to share that and make it really easy, I will.”

It’s that simple. This email is from a whitewater rafting company and has one goal—to get me to share my story to my friend on MY Facebook wall.

It sounds too simple to work, doesn’t it? But it works like mad. Facebook is a marketer’s dream come true for a couple of reasons. The first is based on a core marketing principle: “Your best prospects are people who share the behavior and/or characteristics of your existing customers.”

This describes Facebook. My friends are people like me! I’m influential to them, as they are to me. When my brother-in-law or friend does something or suggests something, I’m going to pay attention. When his story shows up on his Facebook wall, I’m going to click through and see what’s up. This is highly qualified traffic that converts.

The second thing here is that your customers want to do this. People use Facebook as a platform to showcase themselves. They use their Facebook wall to showcase their lives and share things they think are worthy. People want to talk about themselves—so, give them the opportunity and make them all local heroes.

What’s great about this idea is that it’s easy to test and costs almost nothing to execute: the price of some business blog software and a couple of emails. The customer is doing all the work, willingly. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Chris Baggott is CEO and cofounder of Indianapolis-based
Compendium Blogware.

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