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What Can Social Media Teach Us About Conversion Optimization?

I’ve written before that conversion optimization can learn a lot from content marketing (such as this example). But can conversion optimization also learn something from social media marketing?

The answer is yes. In particular, one key lesson: people prefer dealing with other real people.

The Social Media Antidote

Marketing has gotten a bad rap — to a certain degree, deservedly so — for being artificial at times. The airbrushed models from stock photography on a landing page, smiling cheerfully as they answer customer calls, are a classic example. They look nice, but they’re not real.

Even if the intent with the imagery is sincere, somewhere in the subconscious, visitors recognize that those people are not actually the people they will do business with. It misses an opportunity to communicate authenticity.

Or consider the pseudo-testimonial, where “John D.” of San Anonymous, CA gushes about a product in a pitch-perfect quote. Even if John D. exists, is a customer, and truly showered that glowing endorsement, skeptics have no reason to believe it.

How do they know it wasn’t made up? (Sorry, a few unscrupulous characters ruined it for all of us.) What was intended to bolster credibility can end up tarnishing it instead.

Social media thrives because it eschews such artificiality.

We like to engage with real people on Twitter and Facebook. We like reading the blog posts from specific individuals at companies whose thoughts we find useful or inspiring. Nameless, faceless brand accounts might provide some value, but they don’t resonate with us in the same way.

Human interaction remains the killer app in all of digital media.

Real People On Landing Pages

We can tap into some of that authentic social media mojo in our landing pages by being willing to introduce real people behind a brand.

For instance, take this example of a microsite by Blue Mountain, the popular eCard brand that is part of American Greetings:

One of the options in the microsite is to “meet” the artists behind the cards. Here, three greeting card designers are featured with samples of their work. You can click through to learn a little of their background and their individual approaches to card design. It’s a brilliant way to make eCards more real.

It also enables self-segmented “liking” (as defined by influence guru Robert Cialdini) — visitors can pick cards from the artists with whom they best relate.

Note that these featured artists are not the executives of the company.

The typical “management” page of bios squirreled away in the about section of your corporate website does not count as humanizing your online presence. Typically, those management pages are far away from the post-click marketing experiences where people are primarily interacting with your brand—as if those executives don’t really want to establish personal contact.

But you can break that mold, as in this example embedded in a Netezza product page:

Brad Terrell, general manager of the digital media group at Netezza, wants to introduce himself to potential prospects — directly in the context of them first learning about the product and the brand.

Even though his quote is a little pitchy, he makes it genuine by putting his real face and his real email address on it. He’s inviting contact. And even if only a fraction of prospective customers decide to actually write him, I’m sure that many more appreciate having the option of reaching out to him if ever they feel the need.

Who says you can’t make enterprise B2B marketing personal?

Real People In Testimonials

If you want to wield the most credibility from testimonial social proofs as possible, use people’s full names — and in the case of a B2B offering, include the titles and companies where those people work. That not only makes them believable, it gives your visitors a way to relate to peers (or aspirational peers) who have had success with your product or service.

Here’s a terrific example of such a real testimonial on a landing page for a SEOmoz product:

Not only does it include the full name, title, and company of the person in the testimonial, it also includes his photo and the logo of his company. The handwritten elements — the leading pull quote and the person’s name and title — adds a further humanizing touch. This is a highly affective testimonial.

The SEOmoz landing page lets the visitor slide through four tabs of additional content, each with a high impact testimonial in this style:

I emailed Joanna Lord, Director of Acqusition Marketing at SEOmoz, who produced this landing experience, and asked her about their rationale.

“Back in the day, optimizing a landing page meant we needed to make the action more clear, and drop half the content to keep the message simple,” said Joanna. “That’s not enough these days. We need to provide an experience that makes our users feel comfortable, safe, and confident in their decision to go with our products. Combining more human elements with landing page best practices is the future of optimization, and a very lucrative one at that.”

How has this more socially-tuned, content-rich landing experience performed relative to its predecessor?

I can see Joanna smiling through her email: “The new version’s conversion rate is 400% higher than the past version. Free trial sign-ups are way up, and we think the layout combined with the trust signals on the new features page are responsible for this.”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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