By BEN HEINEMANN
It used to be that a consumer would walk into a store, make a purchase, might tell some close friends and family about their purchase if they were happy, and that was that. With the advent of social media, consumers are looking at brands and making purchasing decisions in ways li.....
It used to be that a consumer would walk into a store, make a purchase, might tell some close friends and family about their purchase if they were happy, and that was that. With the advent of social media, consumers are looking at brands and making purchasing decisions in ways like never before.
According to Maya Grinberg, Chief Evangelist and Social Media Manager at Wildfire, 94 percent of corporate executives say their brand uses social media. As such, consumers are influenced more than ever by what their social networks are saying about brands.
“Consumers are noticing relevant content that exists within social media channels as shared by others or produced by brands,” said Grinberg during a recent AdAge webinar, adding that U.S. consumers produce 500 billion impressions on one another about products and services every year. These impressions, meaning that someone in a social channel wrote something about a brand they are using and someone in their social network saw the post, are changing the way consumers shop and discover new brands.
According to Forrester Research, 75% of the world’s population is connected to each other and to information through mobile devices alone. Forrester estimates there are 5.3 billion social connections worldwide. If you are a user of social media, this means that you play a crucial role in the perception of a brand almost as much as advertising and corporate identity do.
The new customer lifecycle model looks like this: Consumers discover a brand or product, evaluate, buy, access, use, get support through social channels and then re-engage. It’s a process that can be repeated again and again in both directions, making a consumer’s experience with a brand cyclical. Here’s why that’s important to you and how you can make sure your brand is optimized for this new pattern:
DISCOVER: Grinberg used the example of clothing brand H&M to highlight the “discover” phase. Because the brand has Google AdWords and programmed and social extensions turned on, when users search for an H&M product online, not only do they see a traditional ad in the search results, they also see pictures of their friends on social networks who have “Liked” the page or given it a “+1” on Google Plus. This immediately makes the ad and the brand more personal to that potential customer. For H&M, it meant an increase in click-through rates by 25 percent.
EVALUATION: Grinberg said that 36 percent of adults who are online in the U.S. are active critics, meaning they contribute to reviews, blogs and social channels. “The other two thirds of the population are impacted by those activated critics.” Again, showing the power social media has given the average consumer, Grinberg said that 83 percent of consumers say their purchase decisions have been impacted by user reviews. This is why it’s important to not only have highly-visible social pages, but that you interact with the consumers who are active on those pages.
BUY: Instead of going into a brick and mortar store, consumers are starting to make purchases with social commerce features that are built into branded profiles and sites. This also allows users on sites like Facebook and Google Plus to share their purchases with their networks. “17 percent of consumers have actually bought something based on a friend’s post,” Grinberg said. On top of building in purchasing options into your social sites, promotions and coupons on your social networks can also equal more revenue for your brand, with 48 percent of U.S. consumers saying they have discovered new brands, trends and products just because of a promoted promotion.
ACCESS: If a consumer wasn’t a fan of your social page before, making a purchase that they love might put them over the edge. So what makes people want to follow a brand on social networks? According to Forrester Research, 33 percent of people said it’s because they are a current customer.
“They want to feel positive reinforcement from purchasing from you,” said Grinberg.
According to the same study, 37 percent of U.S. consumers are looking for special offers and deals, and 6 percent are following a brand because their friend is a fan of a page.
USE: If you have an engaged fan of your brand, you have earned yourself a promoter who participates in social offerings baked into a product-related experience. Grinberg used the example of the Huffington Post: If a user chooses to login to the site using social credentials from Facebook, for example, they typically stay on the page 8 minutes longer than those that aren’t social engaged. This is because once you login to a site with social credentials like the Huffington Post, you get content served to you in a personalized manner – the site learns the type of stories you like to read, which encourages you to stay on the site longer and become even more engaged.
GET SUPPORT: Just as much as a social media fan of your product can have a positive impact on your brand, a negative experience will have just as much exposure. Grinberg stated that according to the American Express 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, social customers will tell an average of 42 people about a good experience and 53 people about a bad experience. This is why it’s important as a brand to respond to complaints on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus quickly and effectively. Sometimes, if you can turn a bad experience around quickly enough and satisfy the consumer, they may just promote you even more than they would have if they had a good experience. “50 percent of Facebook users and 80 percent of Twitter users expect a response to a customer support inquiry within 24 hours or less,” Grinberg said.
RE-ENGAGE: More often than not, social community members turn into loyal brand advocates. “Brand with high advocate populations get 264 percent more earned media impressions over a year than average brands,” said Grinberg, siting the Wildfire Brand Advocate Study. You keep those social customers engaged by offering coupons and promotions that give your customers a chance to tell their friends about those offerings, who tell their friends and so on. Maybe one of those friends has never heard of your brand before or is a current customer but hasn’t made a purchase with you in a while. This turns back into the “discover” step of the process, and it starts all over again.