June 25, 2011

What is The Social Funnel?...
And Why You Need to Build One

Social media channels increasing the venues of choice for consumers to collect information and connect with brands, presents a strategic opportunity for companies to create a “Social Funnel” above the traditional marketing and sales funnel – where consumers take the lead in finding information and content that ultimately drives brand preference and sales.

In Winning the Consumer Decision Journey, McKinsey & Company’s David Court shares that, in the new social and digital age, “the path to purchase and loyalty is now complex, iterative, and dynamic.” In this new environment, creating a Social Funnel allows brands to identify and have access to buyers long before the buying process begins.

The Social Funnel Defined
The Social Funnel is a dynamic collection of consumer activity across social media channels, which sits on top of the traditional marketing and sales funnel. Developing a Social Funnel requires a systematic process of identifying and capturing consumer interactions across a variety of social media channels, aggregating this activity in a social customer relationship management (SCRM) infrastructure, and continually mining this insight to deliver relevant content to the right social profile at the right time. The chart below describes the Social Funnel and its tie to the traditional marketing and sales funnel:

To be effective, Social Funnels need to be tightly integrated with traditional customer relationship management (CRM) systems to create a 360-degree view of a prospect to allow marketers to nurture this relationship over time using a combination of social and traditional, experts agree that this integration holds a lot of potential. “Integrating social deeper into existing CRMs is going to be very popular in 2011 – we expect to see a growing number of brands tying customer records to public social profiles and bread crumbs”, says Nathaniel Perez, head of social experience at SapientNitro.

The integration of social media with the traditional funnel is one of the key priorities for brands in 2011. Although only 6% of companies today report that they fully integrate social with traditional marketing funnels.

David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation for digital marketing agency 360i, agrees but tempers things by saying that “we are still early in the process but tying social profiles to CRM systems will be big.”

We see a growing number of companies starting to tie social profiles to their CRM systems. As this process continues to evolve, we expect to see social media becoming more of a critical component throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Systems that support the integration of social with CRM will increase in adoption over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, giving organizations the ability to seamlessly combine data from multiple systems easily and efficiently.

By Jennifer Pricci