Make no mistake. We’re in a new era. Thanks to social media, the consumer-company relationship has been totally turned on its head. In this new era, companies can no longer get by simply by shouting one-way messages at customers. And no longer do companies hold all the power while consumers struggle to get their voices heard.
Nope, today’s customer can be heard loud and clear. The customer’s voice can be heard everywhere, including review websites, blogs, YouTube videos, Tweets, Facebook updates, and other social media outlets. And companies have to pay attention because social media is changing the way customers do business. It’s influencing the entire buying process. If they don’t pay attention, they risk losing customers and getting upstaged by their once small and powerless competition.
The most obvious way that social media has changed consumer behavior is just by giving customers a bigger voice than they’ve ever had before. In a new study by Euro RSCG, 31.5% of U.S. social media users said they feel empowered to do things they’ve always wanted to do and 20% have lashed out against brands and companies online. In short, customers feel empowered to say the things they’ve always wanted to say but never had the outlet to do so. In short, the anonymity and safety provided by social media lets customers feel more confident in expressing their true feelings about the brands they interact with.
And all this noise does have an effect. According to a study performed by OTX Research, about 2/3 of customers use the information they find through social media to influence their buying decisions. 67% of customers are likely to pass this information on to others, and over 60% trust information they find through social media more than traditional advertisements.
In other words, customers are using social media outlets to research companies before doing business with them. So, if you run a company and the social media space is filled with a bunch of negative information about your brand, you’re probably losing a lot of customers.
How Companies Can Create a Strong Social Media Presence
Clearly, customers are being influenced by social media. And if you want them to be influenced positively to do business with your company, you need to build a strong social media presence. No, that doesn’t mean spamming a bunch of people to build your followers list. It also doesn’t mean going hot on Digg or ReddIt once or twice.
Building a strong social media presence requires consistency. It requires actually engaging with your target demographic, building relationships that help you earn their trust and their business. And it requires having actual goals and strategy for your social media campaign.
What kind of goals should you set for your social media campaign?
- Improve search engine rankings
- Increase brand awareness
- Increase positive brand mentions online
- Improve overall customer service and satisfaction ratings
- Earn more sales
Once you’ve set your goals, you have to track your results. That’s pretty easy because you now have something to measure up against. For example, if you want to earn more sales through social media marketing, you can track your sales before and after your campaign. If you aren’t getting more sales, then maybe things aren’t working according to plan.
Of course, social media marketing does take time. You can’t scrap everything after just a few days without getting results. Social media marketing takes months. Consumers won’t alter their behavior overnight. So, you need to give your social media marketing efforts time to start working. But if after a reasonable period of time you aren’t seeing results, maybe it’s time to change your strategy.
What do you think? Does social media influence your buying behavior?