Forget everything you ever learned about conversion funnels and traditional online marketing when thinking about social (media) marketing. When it comes to social marketing you can't simply expect customers to flow seamlessly through a series of steps as if being pulled by gravity as funnel analysis implies. It's time to embrace the concept of getting your customers to walk or run up the down escalator of social marketing.
When it comes to traditional online marketing (banner ads, email marketing, pay per click ads), you are marketing to people's wants. You've done your demographic studies, you know what keywords they're looking for and you simply created ads that appeal to that audience at a particular point in their buying cycle. When your creative is effective and people click through to your website, you can allow the site to generate its own gravity to pull (guide) their interactions through a series of steps, to their ultimate goal. These steps comprise your conversion funnel.
With social marketing, you're reaching people at a completely different stage in the buying cycle. Frequently social marketing reaches people so early on that they might not even know what they want. They have no idea what the prize is at the end of the social engagement. It is through multiple social interactions that you will ultimately encourage them to walk up the down escalator to reach a prize they don't even know they wanted yet. A prize they perhaps didn't know existed when they took their first steps towards the escalator.
The First Step
The customer's first step is their first social interaction with you and your brand. This might simply be a response to a tweet, a +1 or a Facebook Like of a blog post. It is through these initial interactions that your customer is at the bottom of the down escalator ready to make the decision to commit to the climb or simply walk away.