Consumers Are Calling From Facebook and Twitter

John BusbyWith the recent launch of click-to-call ad buttons on Facebook and Google, dialing businesses from a smartphone is officially part of the “new normal.” And early as it may be, the technology is taking off — within months of its inception, social has outperformed traditional online advertising in ad spend and lead generation.

Advertisers already put an estimated $4 billion towards click-to-call for paid search annually. There have been 93 billion calls this year alone, and by 2019, the number of calls placed will exceed 162 billion, according to the Marchex Institute’s 2015 Click-to-Call Commerce Mobile Performance Report. Social media ad placements represent one of today’s big market opportunities for mobile marketers to connect with potential customers. And, similar to Web search, social media activity is dominated by mobile — according to the Q4 Social Sharing Report from Share This, mobile generates roughly 66 percent of the browsing and sharing that occurs on social media.

This matters to your customers, yet many of them lack the skills to take advantage. Fortunately, click-to-call’s rapid acceptance by both businesses and consumers is due, at least in part, to groundwork that has already been laid. It also plays right to a typical telecom agent’s skill set.

Previously, Web searchers could place calls from their mobile devices via a company’s website contact info. Adding the buttons as a search result was just the logical next step. Google’s extensive market research confirmed that logic: A survey of thousands of mobile consumers revealed that – to the surprise of many – the most common purchase-oriented response to a mobile search is, in fact, a phone call, which cemented click-to-call as one of the coming years’ potentially most lucrative ad pipelines.

Not only that, but mobile-influenced offline purchases are expected to outperform direct m-commerce – that is, online mobile purchases – by a factor of 20. This suggests that there’s something people value about “offline” experiences that can’t be replicated on a device. The “why” depends on the constituent.

For those on the business end, a call has clear advantages over a click, because it connects a merchant with a prospect in the flesh, or pretty close. There is no separation of miles and pages of inscrutable content and Internet ether. Old-fashioned salesmanship has an opportunity to blossom.

For consumers, mobile is simply a different experience, and thus, they’re inclined to turn to it for different reasons. Screen size alone is a deterrent to purchasing over the phone because of the difficulty involved in navigating Web checkout processes that involve multiple clicks. And, in contrast to desktop users, mobile users are out in the “real world” interacting with people and places — they want technology to augment that experience, not replace it. As a bridge between the Internet and the physical world, mobile devices are the missing link between consumers’ behavior online and their behavior offline.

The upside for your customers is that when mobile consumers never – or rarely – go fully “offline,” they become more accessible and engaged than ever. But mobile consumers also behave quite differently than desktop-tethered consumers. They are more deliberate, focused and resentful of interruptions. And, by extension, they want to get something different out of the information they consume on those devices.

Add to that the desire to connect in the real world that drives social media use, and you’ve got a platform where click-to-call can be used to create a tremendous amount of leverage. Along with research firm BIA Kelsey, we predict that by 2019 there will be more than 30 billion phone calls from social platforms on mobile to businesses.

In the rapid adoption of click-to-call, advertisers are chasing more than just “likes” and engagement. They want qualified leads that turn into real customers from all forms of mobile advertising. And there’s good reason to think that they’ll get what they’re after. On social media, consumers want transparency, and there is nothing more transparent than a phone call.

So how can you, and your customers, turn an opportunity into revenue? Here are some tips for getting more “social calls”:

  • Keep in mind that when consumers are checking social, they are killing time. They’re often browsing without a real goal, waiting for something to catch their eye. Base your campaigns around a compelling offer, like a great discount.
  • Make it easy for them to reach out. Use a phone number or click-to-call button, even if phone calls are only one way that a consumer would make contact. Studies have shown that a phone number establishes trust, because it shows that they can actually reach out to you and speak with a real person in real time.
  • Measure results! Optimizing campaigns requires an investment in analytics. Just as web marketers measure clicks, consider a call analytics platform to understand what’s really going on over the phone.

John Busby is Marchex’s senior vice president of Consumer Insights & Marketing and leads the Marchex Institute analytics and insights team, which publishes findings on advertising campaign performance, consumer data and market trends. John oversees all whitepapers and analyses and is a key strategic advisor to clients.

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