f commerce

You know the metaphor: Facebook is a cocktail party where no one wants to talk to the pushy insurance salesman. Yet too many businesses still don’t get why that salesman isn’t delivering – which is likely why the number of US retailers with Facebook-enabled checkout dropped 63% from 2011 to 2012.

Or maybe they do, but are too set in old, mass-media ways: “My customers are there, so I’ll start selling there!” That’s how it worked for print, for radio, for TV – building a marketing model that’s ingrained in today’s leading businesses, says author Don Tapscott:

“Leaders of old paradigms have great difficulty embracing the new. This broadcast model of marketing goes very, very deep. An entire industry was built around it. And an entire DNA was built within our companies.”

But 98% of retailers still have a Facebook presence – they recognize Facebook’s importance, even though driving sales through the network remains difficult. Luckily, influencing sales through Facebook is possible, when done right. Companies just need to learn some new rules.

Play by the conversational rules of the social network to influence purchases

Facebook is social and controlled by consumers – and it’s the social network most likely to influence a purchase, with 31% of consumers saying their buying is influenced by the site. So, make your selling on the network social and consumer-driven. Start by encouraging shoppers who write reviews and ask questions on your brand site share to them on their own News Feeds. Reviews replace a hard sell from a brand with a gentle, authentic recommendation from a real person – and consumers trust those recommendations 12 times more than brand-written content. Questions posted to Facebook may get answered more quickly, and could even bring their friends to your site.

Capturing their feedback when they’re excited about a new purchase can be enough to get consumers to share. Gamification and loyalty programs can spark even more sharing.

Second, include reviews and shopper Q&A on your Facebook page. While 91% of US retailers now include reviews on their website, far fewer include this highly social content on social networks. These facilitate genuine conversations that center on your products without pushing a hard sell. Benefit Cosmetics saw a 1000% increase in “Buy Now” clicks after adding reviews to their Facebook page. Step 2, America’s largest manufacture of toddler toys, incorporated reviews into their Facebook page, and saw a 135% increase in referral traffic from Facebook and a 300% increase in revenue from Facebook- referred visitors.

Tear down the garden’s walls to blend Facebook and your site

You can continue to influence purchases using Facebook even after getting consumers to your product pages. Allow Facebook verification sign-in, and use it to surface reviews from friends in the shopper’s network – people they know and trust.

Friends don’t always share each other’s tastes, so go beyond their networks by using their profile info to surface reviews from people like them: In their region, at their university, with similar hobbies, etc. An outdoor retailer, for example, could connect a hiker with boot reviews from other people who list “hiking” in their Facebook interests – people with similar use cases whose reviews are more relevant to the shopper.

Encourage shoppers to sign in with Facebook by showing them what’s in it for them. Don’t just say “Sign in with Facebook!” – give them a reason to want to by explaining. “Sign in with Facebook to see reviews from your friends and people who share your interests!” More convincing, right?

Loyalty programs and gamification also give shoppers incentive to use Facebook verification to sign into your site. Step2 drove 170% increase in FB verification sign-ins by awarding loyalty program points for signing in with Facebook.

As eMarketer put it in a recent report, selling via Facebook is “evolving, not extinct.” Brands must learn to keep their marketing activity on the social network conversational and consumer driven to attract buyers, and bring Facebook functionality into the brand site to amplify the benefits.

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