How to Create a Four-Tiered Funnel That Can Help With Social Storytelling

Carmen Collins, SR Social Media/Talent Brand Manager, Cisco

Have you seen this question, or maybe even asked it: “What are the top three metrics you use to justify your social media team?”

It’s impossible to answer because it’s the wrong question. It’s a trick and a journey down the rabbit hole to lots of guessing and vanity metrics that don’t really MEAN anything.

What’s the right question? There are several:

• Who is my audience?

• Where is my audience?

• What do I want my audience to do AND/OR how can I help it?

These questions help you set clear goals. Goals that are distinct to your business, your needs and your social media followers’ needs. Without clear goals, you will never be able to show success or justify any social media tactic. Driving sales is a lot different than building a brand, which is different from getting likes. All these are puzzle pieces that need to fit together to show a clear picture of your social media program.

Storytelling with Metrics

Measuring social media return on investment (ROI) doesn’t stop there. You need to take your goal and metrics that provide insight to those goals and tell a story. Metrics isn’t just a numbers game—it’s also an exercise in storytelling.

I asked the WeAreCisco social media team to think in an entirely new way about reporting metrics with the advent of the company’s new fiscal year. Every single channel has goals directly tied to business outcomes Cisco cares about. Plus, the team now feels it drives business needs, that it has value and can influence business decisions.

How? It uses the sales funnel and storytelling. Let’s talk about the sales funnel first. What does the sales funnel have to do with social media? Everything. First, it helps you set goals. Clear goals. Goals that drive to business needs.

Source: Carmen Collins, Cisco

The Sales Funnel as Sweet Tea

Understanding the sales funnel is like understanding how a Southerner (like myself) makes our favorite drink, sweet tea. To make sweet tea to please a discerning Southern taste, you need to make it in a glass jar. Glass jars usually have small openings – but in true Southern style, you need to get lots of sugar into that tea. So, you use a funnel, which allows you to pour ALL THE SUGAR into the funnel, which then lets it get into the tea and not all over your counters. (Sticky southern counters attract sugar ants.)

The sales funnel takes a big audience (like lots of sugar) and guides it through the steps to becoming a customer (like filling that jar of yummy sweet tea).

While you’ll see the sales funnel depicted different ways, our team uses it in its simplest form (see graphic).

The team looks at goals in these 4 pieces of the funnel:

1. How much awareness are we creating? This is the largest part of the funnel (remember all the sugar?). Social media spends a lot of time getting people into the funnel and through the process. For our team the process is about helping key talent pools understand how Cisco is using technology to help change the world and how our culture is critical to making Cisco an amazing place to work.

In looking at this part of the funnel, we identify key social media activities we want to employ that we think will help us entice candidates further down the funnel. Then we look at those activities and decide which key performance indicators (KPI) will show us if we’re successful (or not).

After that we look at how those activities impact Cisco’s bottom line. These are the outcomes that such activities help with. Things like:

  • Share of voice (in the mix of our competitors, is talent talking about our culture in comparison?)
  • Brand awareness—are we improving on lists like

Great Places to Work and Glassdoor? Employee participation in our employee advocacy programs—happier employees are employees who stay and refer other happy employees.

2. How much demand are we generating? This part sits a little farther down the middle of the funnel, and tells us that of the people we have reached with our employee-generated culture content, how many of them are engaging with us, checking us out on different channels and commenting on and liking our posts?

Again, for this part of the funnel, we look at what social activities we think will get current and future talent engaged with us. Things like:

  • Engagement rate (how many of the people we reach are paying attention and responding?)
  • What type of engagements are we getting? Are we reaching the talent we want to reach?
  • Are employees telling the external story we hope they are?

3. Are we converting? This is the bottom and skinniest part of the funnel. All of the great social tactics and engagement are worthless unless we can affect things like how many clicks we can drive to our Careers website and how many of those clicking people are applying and successfully being hired?

This is where the rubber hits the road for the company’s bottom line. The metrics we track here can show us:

  • Time to hire/cost of hire. If our social activities can help recruiters get more responses when they reach out to talent, or talent is more apt to request an interview, we can show how we influence talent acquisition costs. Plus, we can show oure efforts are resulting in higher quality hires.
  • Are we influencing employee referrals? That can have a zero cost to the company, as well as retaining an employee.

4. Do we have passionate advocates?This part of the sales funnel can be equated to having the finished glass of sweet tea over ice. Are our employees happy, are they advocates on our behalf and are they helping people find the funnel at all stages?

You may think advocacy is only a part of the funnel in a business like mine, where you’re talking about hiring employees. But you’ve been misled! If you have a product, and the best sales team on the planet and your employees aren’t “eating their own dog food” (using and enjoying the product) that will affect sales. Skip this part of the funnel at your risk.


Treat Metrics Like Content

Now you can see how storytelling comes into play.

By using this format to set goals, it also becomes clear to us that we move in and out of various parts of the funnel at different times. It’s proof we must treat metrics the way we treat content. We become storytellers.

For example: Some accounts are very concerned with the question, “How many Instagram followers do you have?” (That’s a top-of-funnel, awareness metric). Why would that mean anything to a business, if you don’t also look at the quality of your followers? This means you need to see your followers actually look at your posts, which is monitored through engagement rate (a middle-of-funnel metric.)

How We Tell The Story

Here’s how we would tell that story, using our Instagram channel as an example:

We have 22K Instagram followers. What makes that number pop is not one of those followers was paid for. Posting compelling visual content and creating copy that makes us seem like we’re humans not robots attracted those followers.

And followers care about our posts. We have 2-3x more followers than industry engagement standards. And through engagement, we can tell you exactly how many clicks we drove to our Careers site. Thanks to this metric we know you were asking about how many applies and hires we drove. We were able to go to the IT team and get tracking metrics all the way to the end of the process.

Now THAT story will make it easy for our boss to explain to our boss’s boss and our boss’s boss’s boss that we’re helping the business by getting more share of voice, increasing the conversation about Cisco as a great place to work, becoming a top employer brand—which helps attract the best talent—lowering the cost of attracting talent and through advocacy helping retain the great talent we already have.

We tell the story using the funnel and the goals we’ve set as a team to prove ROI.

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