So, your brand is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. You refresh your Radian6 hourly, have a killer Klout score, and hundreds of thousands “liked” your brand on Facebook. So what?

While it’s now considered a brand death sentence to ignore social media, many marketers, who are results- and/or strategy-oriented, are still failing to connect social to entire channel strategy and measure its results therein.

In fact, a recent Econsultancy study revealed that while 66 percent of marketers consider social media an integral part of their strategy, less than a quarter of them have measured its impact on their customer conversion rates. At the end of the day, customer conversion really is the end goal of any strategy, marketing or otherwise, a company bothers to put together.

Social media is somewhat of an anomaly though; it’s been widely accepted by marketers as a vehicle for awareness rather than one that can be relied upon for conversions or enhancement of the 360-degree customer experience. Ironically, it’s become a lot like traditional advertising in that regard. This is likely because marketers aren’t exactly sure the right next steps to take once they’ve met their social media awareness goal and they simply aren’t sure how to bridge their virtual friends & fans with tangible business objectives.

Not only is it possible to use social media as an effective customer conversion tool, marketers can take it a step further to use it as a customer retention tool thereafter.

Here are 5 steps you can take to elevate your social media goals beyond awareness and into customer conversion and retention:

1. Nurture Fan Engagement Immediately

Your job begins the second visitors arrive at your social media doorstep, so make sure your page has eye-catching visuals and branding that’s consistent with your official website (albeit a tad more relaxed, in most cases).

Like it or not, people are superficial -- and most followers won’t ever come back unless they feel they have a good reason to. So once they’re in, offer immediate and easy ways to engage them: gift downloads, blog subscriptions or an email list.

Hint: use A/B and multivariate testing to see what types of content, design style and initial offers have a positive impact on conversion rates.

2. Encourage Sharing

When people tweet about you on Twitter, “like” you on Facebook or pin your images to their Pinterest boards, you have access to consumer data that can be used to create unique, personalized fan experiences -- providing a boost to customer loyalty.

Of all the content you provide, you want to emphasize the type your fans will share with their friends and followers. Shared content is the strongest indicator of social media’s business value, as it translates into the types of action that lead to tangible results.

Take sharing a step further by integrating social media plugins into your site. Tools such as “like” buttons, comment boxes and recommendations turn these new visitors into brand advocates, making it easy for them to share select information with their friends.

Finally, show followers what they can do and what’s available to them by displaying prominent calls-to-action (CTA) with clear instructions.

Hint: Test various CTA combinations -- in terms of style, content, placement, and ease-of-use -- to see which bring in the most fans.

3. Gather Data!

One of the most important steps in moving from awareness to conversions is gathering data about fans and followers who end up on your website as a result of your social media efforts. You can learn a ton about the type of visitors you’re attracting -- age, gender, location, relationship status, other “likes” and more -- depending on the level of authorization granted by each fan.

And with the right tools, you can create individual user profiles based on this data as well as previous known site behaviors. These profiles will inform the personalization activity that will bring you one step closer to success.

4. Personalize Your Interactions


Now that you’ve accumulated your data, it’s time to put it to work. Since no two fans are alike, there’s no reason every follower should see the exact same thing on your site when they arrive or as they browse. The good news is that there are automated behavioral targeting tools that will allow you to present highly personalized offers to visitors on an individual basis.

These tools do not just rely on the behavioral data you’ve gathered; they incorporate existing customer data, such as current products owned, demographic information and a whole lot more to identify the offer best suited to a specific fan. That information paired with the collected insights from all of your fan segments will allow you to cross-sell and up-sell products with targeted recommendations for future browsers.

Going a step further, predictive behavioral targeting uses mathematical models that learn over time to dynamically adjust and predict content to display to each visitor based on real-time and historical site activity.

5. Integrate with Other Marketing Efforts

Social media is only one channel your consumers are going to interact with your brand on. So while testing and personalization on Facebook will enhance conversion rates. The real value to marketers will be using social data to enhance and tailor experiences on the web, mobile, tablet or email channel.

The bottom line is, getting just one side of the story isn’t enough. Setting up your marketing programs so that social media data and user profiles are fully integrated with all your other online and offline shopping channels will allow you to create rich, detailed and fully comprehensive digital experiences. Moving seamlessly from channel to channel is going to be essential for gaining and retaining savvy customers.

All the data in the world is useless if you’re not doing anything with it. And social media is the new frontier in using data to learn more about your customers, so don’t even think about stopping your social media efforts at increased awareness. That’s just the beginning. 

Image courtesy of tovovan (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more of Mark's thoughts on social media and marketing Lost at 'Like': The 10 Reasons Brands Fail to Convert Facebook Fans into Paying Customers