Why Conversation is the Key to Increasing Facebook Conversions [Study]

Content conversation is king. Image source.

It’s no secret. Organic reach on Facebook is plummeting.

In only five months, reach dropped 50%from an average of 12% in October to 6% in February. Remember when we used to complain about a measly 16% average reach?

Still, reports of the death of organic reach have been exaggerated. In updating their algorithms, Facebook’s aim is to stop the barrage of ads that masquerade as posts – not to bring down “organic reach” per se. Yes, they want to monetize their platform, but not at the cost of user engagement.

The good news is that a decrease in organic reach doesn’t have to mean a drop in engagement or conversions. This random page from my newsfeed, for example, has an engagement rate of 938%.

Facebook organic reach: Modest Needs example

So how are Facebook pages such as the one above staying at the top of the social pile?

They are engaging users and encouraging them to interact and share with each other. Only the brands that recognize this need to increase meaningful interactions with their audience will continue to pick up conversions from Facebook.

Here are some tactics to put you ahead of the game by boosting your engagement and conversion rates on Facebook – as well as your reach.

Interaction is the key to your conversion rate

While you don’t have much control over Facebook algorithms, you do have control over creating great content and engaging your fans so that they want to buy from you.

After all, what good is 100% or more reach if your conversion rate is 0%?

Well, I know this might sound like some New Age touchy-feely BS, but interactions between people are the primary driver of conversions on social networks.

I even have the science to back it up.

A scientific study conducted by the University of Singapore explored the interactions between the users and marketers that drove conversions. Here’s how the study worked.

  • The researchers worked with a small Asian fashion retailer, combining data from the Facebook API with internal data on over 14,000 customers, including actual purchase data.
  • They categorized the posts and comments based on whether they were user-generated or marketer-generated.
  • Using advanced text-mining tools, they rated the content based on how information-rich it was and whether it had a positive or negative tone. They were able to determine which content contained the most information based on the number of concepts discussed. The tone was measured based on the use of emotionally-charged words.
  • They divided interactions into two categories: direct interactions, where the user received a message aimed directly at them, and indirect interactions, where the user read a message directed at others or nobody in particular.

Being the statistically knowledgeable PhDs that they were, the researchers also controlled for several variables in order to avoid mixing cause with effect. (You know, the whole “correlation isn’t causation” thing.)

Here’s what they discovered:

  • User-generated content had an overall stronger impact on conversions than marketer-generated content.
  • Information-rich interactions increased sales whether the interactions were positive or negative, direct or indirect.
  • Marketer-generated content only had a measurable effect on driving consumer purchases when it was direct.
  • In a bizarre twist, user-generated content was most influential when the interactions were indirect.
  • At the same time, direct user-generated content (such as positive reviews) played an important role because it transformed the products into inelastic commodities. In other words, these types of interactions made users less sensitive to changes in price.
  • Customers who liked the page before buying had a lifetime value $22 higher than customers who didn’t. Much more importantly, this increase was explained entirely by the interactions discussed above, not merely by liking the page.

There’s a lot to take in here, so let’s review a little, shall we?

Your content should act as a vehicle for user interaction

First off, there’s this whole thing about user-generated content having more influence on sales than marketer-generated content. Does that mean we as marketers shouldn’t even bother producing content, that we should just open the page up as a free-for-all? Especially when we see that only direct interactions boost sales?

Not exactly.

Instead, we need to think of marketer-generated content as a vehicle to create interactions between users. A piece of content that gets shared a lot but that doesn’t lend itself to conversation probably isn’t going to do much for conversions either.

A piece of marketer-generated content aimed at your general audience (as opposed to a single person) should have two primary goals:

  • To get shared in order to expand reach (more on that later).
  • To get commented on in order to increase your conversion rate.

As the study shows, user-generated content has the strongest impact on conversions. And the more comments you get, the higher your average lifetime customer value will become.

If you’re still working at increasing the conversation around your blog posts, there are other ways you can interact directly with your audience. Shopify recommends posting surveys or asking questions to get your audience involved.

The more opinions the better

The study sheds light on another interesting aspect of conversion psychology.

Information-rich user-generated content increased sales regardless of whether the tone was positive or negative. This mirrors what we said about customer reviews a few months ago. A diverse range of opinions helps sales as opposed to hurting it.

While the study found several instances where positive interactions were more helpful than negative ones, they didn’t find any cases where negative interactions actually hurt sales.

Focus on creating those interactions (whether good or constructive) by getting people talking.

Leverage user interactions for greater reach

By now, I hope the insights above have convinced you that it’s time to step up meaningful interactions with your audience on Facebook. And while I’m sure you see the benefit of keeping your existing audience engaged, you likely also want to leverage those interactions to help your audience grow in size.

This is a dilemma faced daily by smart marketers everywhere: the struggle between expanding your reach and keeping your existing audience. Keeping an audience is the hardest part. In order to make it work, typically, you need more than surface-level content. You need depth.

And, of course, that’s a huge problem when you also need to get shared on social networks. Because what gets shared on social networks is almost never in-depth.

True, Facebook’s increased prominence and visual weight for link posts has helped a lot, but at the end of the day, most of what you see in your Facebook feed still looks like this:

That’s the kind of content that earns a page an engagement rate of 866%:

Classic Rock Facebook example

So we’re faced with a dilemma. If we want to retain an audience, we need in-depth, actionable, useful blog posts. But if we want to expand our reach on social networks, we need bite-size visual content that produces an instant emotional reaction.

The solution to this problem is to do what we just did with Classic Rock 101’s Facebook post: embed it.

Embed your way to more reach and engagement

By embedding bite-sized Facebook posts directly into your blog posts, you can complement the traditional Facebook process in a number of ways:

  • Who cares if average Facebook reach is down to 6%? If you have an email list with a high conversion rate, you can send a much larger portion of your audience directly to a blog post containing an embedded Facebook post. Your initial reach will almost always be larger on your blog than if you simply post it to your wall.
  • While including a Facebook share button on your blog is a good idea, many people will more readily share a bite-size piece of content on their wall rather than a whole blog post.
  • Embeds add flavor to your blog posts by making them more interactive and visual.
  • You can use the text field of your Facebook post to link back to the blog post in order to ratchet up your referral traffic.

The goal here is to take Facebook itself out of the equation as much as possible. You’re not trying to game Facebook’s algorithm and you’re not relying on Facebook as your primary platform. Instead, you’re using your own site and your own email list to build up an audience and merely using Facebook to expand it.

A quick Facebook post embed tutorial

You’ll find the embed code for your post by clicking on the arrow in the top right corner of the post you’d like to share and selecting “Embed Post:”


Keep in mind that you’re going to confuse your audience if your Facebook post links to a blog post that doesn’t exist yet. In order to get around this, you’ll need to hide the Facebook post until the blog post goes live. You can do that from the same menu where you found the embed code (look for the “Hide from Page” option).

All you have to do is take the Facebook post out of hiding once the blog post goes live.

Alternatively, instead of hiding it, you can schedule the Facebook post to go live at the same time as your blog post, using the clock in the bottom left corner:


Conversations are the path to conversions

Improving your conversion rate on Facebook isn’t about “likes.” It’s not about counting on Facebook to do the heavy lifting for you. It’s about creating things that people will actually share with their friends and family. The purpose of each piece of content you create should be to start as many conversations as possible.

Open up the conversation to others by using embeds, on-site social share plugins and even your email list. To borrow a mantra from advertising, “The more you show up in front of your audience, the better the chance they’ll remember your brand when they’re ready for a purchase.”

If you focus on creating great content and making it easy to share and talk about, you may find that your ability to get people talking does wonders for your conversion rate.

— Pratik Dholakiya

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About Pratik Dholakiya
Pratik Dholakiya is the founder of Growfusely, a content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, and Entrepreneurship. Pratik has spoken at the 80th Annual Conference of the Florida Public Relations Association, Accounting and Finance Show, Singapore, NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, SEMrush Meetup, MICA, IIT-Roorkee, and other major events. As a passionate SEO and content marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge in publications like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, YourStory, and Inc42, to name a few. He can be found at Twitter @DholakiyaPratik.
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