Consumers aren’t as likely these days to proceed down the traditional shopping path, from brand awareness to purchase. Social media professionals are rethinking the traditional marketing funnel and seeking to focus on customer intent.

Michael Bird, CEO and co-founder, Social Garden

Michael Bird, CEO and co-founder, Social Garden

For most marketers, their funnel is everything. It’s that tried and true method of tracking consumers through their decision-making process—from first awareness of your brand right down to making a purchase.

But increasingly, the insights demonstrate that this traditional funnel is becoming outdated—and quickly. People are no longer following this defined, linear pathway. They’re not so predictable.

This in itself is scary to marketers who have heralded their funnel as the guiding foundation of their entire social media marketing strategy. They feel like the rug has been ripped out from under them.

But just because consumers are changing, doesn’t mean we have to throw out everything we hold dear. It just means that we have to change with them, and get better at understanding what drives their behavior.


And that is intent. Today’s forward-thinking social media marketing professionals are rethinking their funnel—focusing on intent.

Your consumers are in control

Marketers who rely on demographics to segment their strategies are missing the big picture. Sure, there may be some commonalities between your 45–55 female consumers who live in a certain area. But you’re missing the ‘why’ which holds so much more weight.

What are these consumers looking for at each stage? Asking this question is step one in learning how to improve customer experience.

What do they want to know?

In the digital age, we turn to mobile search to answer our questions in an instant. Take these three everyday examples:

  • Your friend has just talked about this great new product they’ve heard about. You quickly search it to find out more information, and whether it’s really as good as it seems.
  • You’ve received a large bill and that’s the last straw. You hop online to see what competition is out there, and what people have to say about making a change.
  • You’ve just bought your flights for your next holiday. Tick that off the list. Next, you want to look for good deals on luggage, insurance, and accommodation packages.

Every single time people head online is an opportunity to reach them with social media advertising. And when you understand their intent, or why they’re there, you can tailor your solution accordingly. Marketers are now calling these ‘micro-moments’.

Your consumers are guiding your funnel through their intent-filled searches. You just have to focus on being there to provide the solution. The art of good social media advertising is being in the exact right place at the exact right time—and telling the exact right message. The importance of good customer experience simply can’t be overstated.

Where do they want to go?

Once you understand your customers’ intent, you can make logical inferences as to where you target them.

Are they looking up how to do something? They’re probably going to head to YouTube for a demonstration. Maybe they’re looking for a service closest to them. They’ll probably perform a search, and click on one of the top mapped results in the area. Whereas if they’re following up a recommendation, or they want a visual example, they might head to Facebook and Instagram to scroll through a business page or check out the reviews. Refine your social media advertising accordingly.


Optimize Your Media

If everyone’s pathway is different, then it makes sense that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But it’s also easy to get sucked into bending over backwards to make sure that your consumer’s content is targeted to them. Relevance is a wonderful thing, but if it’s not going to result in a conversion—either tomorrow or in 10 years’ time—then you’re wasting your time, resources and all-important budget.

The key is to optimize your media, and that means striking that ideal balance between relevance and lifetime value. Marketers will understand this as a lead qualification—trying to work out which potential customers are worth putting in the effort for.

You might be able to tell that a new site visitor seems to be behaving exactly like someone who will purchase in a months’ time. From data gathered over time, and your accurate tracking of behaviors, and your insight, you’ll then be able to tailor a customer journey that’s most likely to deliver the information they want.

When you succeed in understanding intent and building your social media marketing strategy upon these foundations, then you’ll see much more robust growth than what was possible through your traditional marketing funnel.


Social Garden is a digital marketing agency based in Australia.