How to Build Engagement and Turn Friends, Fans and Followers into Paying Customers

I’ve never really been a phone-talker. Writing has always felt way easier.

And with the advent of the computer age, well…it’s easy to see how someone like me could become overly reliant on communicating via email, twitter and Facebook. The phone seems so…well, last century!

Sadly, I’m not alone. Troll the interwebs and you’ll find plenty of advice on how to avoid killing your business relationships with email and other technologies. We’ve all gotten so used to texting, tweeting and tagging each other, that we’ve forgotten how important it is to have real conversations.

And I’m just as guilty as the rest of you.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’m lousy at phone calls. In fact, my Grandmother frequently berates me for not calling as often as I should (her preference: at least every other week).

She’s 91 years old, and adamant about the fact that she is not getting a computer. So emails and Facebook updates are clearly out. But maybe for me that’s a good thing? She’s a family member, not a business prospect, so it’s even more important that I connect with her by phone and in-person.

But honestly, any relationship that’s important to you, needs a personal touch.  It’s how you will engage your fans online. And it’s how you’ll eventually turn them into customers.

How to Deepen Your Online Connections so they Become Paying Customers

ANY lead you get — whether online or off — must go through a nurturing process. The length of that process will depend on three things:

  1. How ready they are to buy.
  2. How much they know, like and trust you.
  3. How much your thingie costs.

The required level of #2 is directly proportional to the price tag of what you’re offering. So, if your thingie costs a lot, then your customer will need more trusting, liking and knowing you.

If it’s relatively low cost (under $50), then not so much. The lower your price tag, the less people need to trust you before they buy.

If what you’re selling could be purchased on impulse, then really, they just need to KNOW about you and be in the right place at the right time.

But that’s not most of us. We need to work on #2 a bit. We need to deepen our relationships over time. One of the ways we can do that, is by engaging in online conversations with our prospects. In social media terms, engagement activities are seen as one of three things:

  1. Liking a post
  2. Commenting on a post
  3. Sharing a post with others

The more that you can encourage this type of behavior, the better off you’ll be (say the experts). When people engage with us, our relationships build and deepen. But HOW do you get that to happen? Especially when you’ve got these factors working against you:

1. The percentage of your followers, fans and social media friends who actually see your stuff is pretty dang small. Consider these statistics:

2. The number of people who see your stuff, rarely engage with it. Here are some more interesting stats:

Obviously, winning the engagement game means you’ve got to have a pretty large audience. But only if you’ve done everything else correctly first (e.g. create great content and make it easy for people to like, comment and share). It doesn’t take a genius to see that you’re going to need another way to nurture your fans.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Remember this?

AT&T launched this campaign in 1979 and kept using it through the first decade of the 21st century.

(Now their tagline is Rethink possible.)

Funny that we all needed a reminder to connect with people we care about, right?

Well, this is my reminder to you: Reach out and begin to connect with your social media friends. I don’t mean you should call them up as soon as they “like” your Facebook page.

Start small: Send a direct or a private message.

The wonderful thing about technology is that it facilitates the process of meeting new people. People with whom you could actually have a real-life, in person relationship.

I met my husband online, for example. But we didn’t jump into the in-person thing right away.

We started small — with email.

Eventually, it progressed to telephone calls.

Then in-person dates. Like dinner! And well, you get the picture.

This stuff works for more than just dating. It works for business relationships, too.

If you’ve got Facebook fans, Twitter followers and folks who’ve subscribed to your blog, but you’ve never reached out to them individually and said hello, then you’re missing the boat big time! Those are your leads! Nurture them into friends and fans. Don’t let them just sit there, languishing on the web.

9 Steps to Turn Your Fans into Customers:

  1. Find out who they are and what they care about. Click on their names and read their profiles. See if they fit the persona of your Ideal Client. It never hurts to do a little market research. Make notes!  Is there something there you can relate to? Is there something you can use as a way to build rapport?
  2. Send them a short, direct message saying hello and inviting them to do something specific. Mention that thing you found on their profile that interests you. And then add a call to action. As humans, we tend to follow directions. I usually ask new Facebook fans to come back and post an introduction of themselves on the wall so our community can get to know them better.  But it could be anything, as long as it doesn’t involve too much of a commitment. (Remember, you don’t want to scare people away.)
  3. Encourage engagement by praising it. (If you’re a parent, you’ll recognize this tactic – give positive attention to encourage positive behaviors.) Acknowledge folks who engage with you. Reply to and like their comments — in public, as well as privately with a direct message. We humans like to be noticed.
  4. Promote the heck out of them. Take yourself out of the equation for a moment and help them with a little social media PR.  Help them get something they need and make introductions to potential clients for them.
  5. Invite them to join a bigger party. A week or two later, send them another message and invite them to something a little more fun — a webinar or Twitter chat is a good start. Make this an actual event. Again, don’t be a stalker — just be friendly and welcoming. You never know who will say yes.
  6. Ask for a slightly larger commitment. If someone attends your event, invite them to subscribe to your email list. Or join your club. It should be a free or very low-cost way for them to engage with you on a more long-term basis.
  7. Listen. And follow-up. The nurturing phase needs to have several one-one-one touches. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to say hello and build the relationship. When people send out a plea for assistance, answer the call! Be helpful. Be friendly. And keep sending personalized messages when its appropriate.
  8. Let people know you’re available to chat by phone. A phone call or an in-person meeting is your ultimate goal. This is where folks really get to feel you out and see if you’re a good fit for them. Make sure everyone is aware and knows how to reach you. Add a short blurb to the end of your emails. Tweet and post this info on a regular basis, too.
  9. Have low-cost offers they can taste test. Asking people to plunk down cash is okay. As long as it’s not the first thing that comes out of your mouth. Have several levels of pricing for your products and services so that people can begin the customer relationship with you at a point that’s comfortable to them.  This allows them to get to know you better, like you more, and yes — trust that what you’ll deliver on your promises.

If you feel like sales is a weak point for you, get some coaching or take a class. There are literally millions of resources on the web that can help you improve in this area.

Ultimately, stop ignoring your online connections! Get to know them and give them opportunities to get to know you through your online conversations.

And then maybe one day, they’ll pick up the phone and give you a call.  Be sure to invite them to dinner.

Photo Credit: Susan Tansil