The other night, I had a great discussion with a friend about whether or not social media matters for his business. Steve, I thought I’d try to answer you here.
Reality #1: Consumer’s are Unpredictable
There isn’t one single moment when consumers decide to buy your product. It’d be great if there was, because you’d have the most efficient advertising campaign of all time. Your business would only ever have to make one call or run one ad on that single day to get your message out.
The reality is that your consumers don’t always know when or what is going to trigger their next journey to make a purchase decision. When the trigger hits, your consumers likely don’t tell you immediately. But they are very likely to start investigating their next purchase online or speaking to friends and colleagues about their experience with your products. Therefore, the best marketing strategy to mitigate for this unpredictability is to assume that you have some consumers researching all the time. With social media, conversations are public which means you can monitor conversations about your product, how it’s used, between you and your customers and between your customers and their own. All of these things will give you a better perspective of how your brand is perceived and help you anticipate your clients needs.
Reality #2: Consumers are Good at Finding their Own Information
In Google’s landmark study the Zero Moment of Truth, researchers discovered that consumers consult an average of 10 sources of information prior to making a purchase. I’ve attached a chart below of the 10 most frequently cited sources of that information.
You’ll notice that consumers find the product information from search engines highly influential. In addition, the research reveals a pattern in search engine use. In most industries studied, (in the ZMOT study appendix check out the heat maps in Figure A-3) consumers rely on search engines for pre-shopping information at least one month before they buy a product. Many consumers will spend an entire month or two online before they finally decide to make a purchase. They are looking for reviews, product features and price comparisons. Consumers spend more time on social networks than on any other site on the web. If you want to found, social media is a good place to extend your brand presence.
Reality #3: Trusted Sources of Information
According to AdAge, Heidi Cohen has one of the best marketing blogs in the world. Heidi wrote a great article discussing the most trusted sources of product information. Heidi says
“the reality is that consumers have relied upon their trusted sources, namely family, friends and neighbors long before Facebook and the Internet ever existed. Social media just provides platforms that extend the reach of individual consumers to influence others, including strangers that they’ve never met in real life.”
Social media connects us quickly to an ever increasing network of friends, family and neighbours. These people are our most trusted sources of product information. As these networks grow, so too does the archive of the product reviews, photos and endorsements. In short, your customers, their family and friends are becoming marketers for your brand and social networks give them a platform to distribute messages from one to many.
Reality #4: Trusted Sources of information affect your search ranking
Search engines are now using RT’s, Likes, +1’s, shares and the like to influence the organic results of product queries. In addition, Google is displaying product content based on friends preferences. More and more I’ve noticed that the friends and connections I have on social platforms are migrating from these social networks to search engine results. Have a look at this screenshot. The people beside the top 3 search results are friends of mine. Sharing on social platforms serves as proof that content is valuable. There is a lot of garbage on the web so search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo want to offer the most valuable and relevant results they can find for their users. They do this by highlighting socially shared content, if my friends like it chances are I will too. For more on the impact of social SEO or SMO read this article from Michael Olsen.
In closing Steve, social media is an important element to any marketing strategy for four reasons
1. There are conversations about products and brands online everyday. These conversations can be the start of a business interaction and can provide you with some great user-generated product feedback.
2. The amount of people on social networks is growing faster than any other media platform. Consumers are using these networks for everything including sharing product information. If your content is valuable and easy to share, consumers will distribute your message for you.
3. Friends, Family and online reviewers are the best referrals. Millions of consumers are talk regularily to their family and friends through social channels.
4. SEO models are evolving to reflect consumer behaviour. When consumers share or “like” digital content they are effectively telling search engines that this particular content is the real and valuable information.
What do you think about the way I’ve answered my friend? Do you have a different opinion? Would you have answered him differently? Did I leave anything out?
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