Conversion is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot in marketing and being in Higher Ed doing all that kind of work a lot, I hear it all the time. I even think in those terms to some extent. But while in many business settings conversion is thought about in terms of sale, I think we are seeing a strong shift in what a conversion creates apart from that new lead or income.
For eight years I was apart of a medium-sized music festival in Southern Illinois and for five of those I was directly responsible for a lot of the marketing and online promotion for it – or training those who did those jobs. Music fests tend to draw a certain age demographic and ours, being a Christian music festival, drew kids from junior high up to high school. During my tenure with the event, social media began to take hold in the mass market and become a viable channel for engaging our fans.
I was kind of the first one to grab ahold of this. We adopted a blog/news format for our site, started active community building on Twitter, pushed a Facebook group and then page, generated photos on Flickr in the form of a group... I generated a lot of community. And that only grew and the students who ran the festival started using participatory media to engage our fans.Today I think in terms of what really happened there. Sure, the major conversion point might have been when a ticket was sold. They were locked in. But what about the miniature pieces of converting that happened throughout?
We are seeing that community really does matter in the way businesses connect with their fans. And I think we see that it's the little things that happen before that major conversion mark that make the difference. Sort of like building up a tolerance, but maybe more like building up trust.
It's all about decisions
Really. Every time someone makes a decision to interact with you or your brand, they are building that trust and starting the conversion process. Every time they choose to leave a comment, respond to a tweet, share a photo with your Flickr group, or even visit your website, they are starting to build that trust.
The great side effect is that they–hopefully–are entering the larger community as well. They will meet up with others who have made those decisions, built up that trust earlier.
I think that's the making of a strong brand. These people, who have chosen to interact, are sold. They will sing your praises to the ends of the earth.
The other road
There's another road though that short-changes any of this work. Offering to do things just to build up your image. Sure, it may expand your reach, and it may make your Facebook wall or Flickr page look more populated... but you are losing an opportunity to make that person fall in love with your brand. You are losing all of the potential ears that will hear their excited chatter about your community. You are developing lazy followers.
And while that may not be bad by definition, it certainly isn't the best thing.
So please, ask your community to engage! Let them become strong fans of your brand. Encourage them to share and interact and meet people within your community sphere.