How to build a social media into your sales funnel

How great would it be if customers showed up in your store or on your website with a sandwich board on their shoulders, advertising their level of interest in what you have to offer.

“I’m keen to buy now!”

“I’m in research mode.”

“I’m totally just browsing.”

Well it might not be a sandwich board, but there are some ways get a good sense for this buyer intent.

Today’s marketing specialists have a great grasp on sales funnels, the way that customers move from awareness to purchase (and beyond). These funnels cover all the different touch points, marketing channels, and key metrics that go into a buying decision and help you have a better sense for what messaging and content makes the most sense at different points of the customer’s journey.

And the big question on our minds at Buffer: Where does social media fit within this sales funnel?

We’ve got some thoughts on this, as well as some examples and steps to help you build your own sales funnel, with a clear social media focus.

Let’s get started.


Inside the Mind of Your Customers: Understanding the Sales Funnel

You’ve maybe seen the traditional sales funnel: an inverted pyramid that gets narrower and narrower the closer you get to the sale. Here’s a typical example, from the Impact blog:


And here’s a streamlined (and sideways) variation from McKinsey & Company:


So where does social media fit in these funnels?

In my experience, social media has typically appeared at the top, at the exact polar opposite from the sale. Maybe it’s no wonder then that bosses, clients, and teams have a difficult time being fully on board with prioritizing social as a channel. According to the funnel, you don’t make your money from social — at least, not directly.


Unless …

Maybe it’s not as cut-and-dry that social is always top-of-funnel?

Maybe it’s not as cut-and-dry that there even is a funnel!

Some of these thoughts have a bit of data behind them, thanks toan exploration from McKinsey & Company where they analyzed more than 20,000 customers and how they experienced the sales funnel. McKinsey & Company found that the funnel might be more of a circle.


The funnel concept fails to capture all the touch points and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer.

This leads to four primary phases of the circular buyer journey:

  1. Initial consideration
  2. Active evaluation (researching potential purchases)
  3. Closure (purchasing)
  4. Postpurchase (the experience with the product, service, or brand)

Even here, while there is less of a top-down approach in this model, still social media primarily appears only at the beginning, in the Initial Consideration phase.

How does this jive with your experience with social?

For us, we’ve observed a slightly different take on things, both with where social media fits within the funnel and possibly with social media having a funnel of its very own. I’d love to share more.

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