Social is Conversation
Before the Internet, before computers, social existed and thrived. It was a way for people to form groups, communities, share ideas, and strengthen bonds. It was an important aspect of life, and these communications with people you formed bonds with influenced the choices you made and your outlook on the world.
That was the power of social.
Today, when someone says social, it is often in reference to social media and social networks. For many people (especially those under 35 years old), this is the modern-day town square, festival, or water cooler.
Social networks are where many people reside digitally and share their ideas (or cat videos). Although the speed at which the information can be disseminated is faster and the distance between people is a near non-factor, the connections between individuals and the influence that they have over each other still exists.
Social media is still, at its core, about being social and, as such, the power of social still resides there.
So why am I explaining what it means to be social? Strip away the technology, and we’re left with individuals who trust other individuals talking with each other. And I strategically have used “individuals” because brands have evolved from marks that indicate ownership of property to entities with voices and personalities. Brands can utilize social media in order to become individuals to their customers – they have the power to join the conversation.
The Customer Lifecycle and Social Influence
Do you make your decision in a vacuum?
Do you find yourself talking about it to others, even just mentioning it to see if there is any feedback?
How did you start to consider making this decision?
Did you listen to what others around you had been talking about, individuals that you had a bond with and/or trusted?
The ability for others to influence our decisions is called social influence and has always been a factor in the customer lifecycle. Often associated with awareness, social influence also plays a role in evaluation and advocacy (if you are excited about it, you tell others).
With the ability for brands to exist as individuals in a digital social setting, social – as it relates to the customer life cycle – also now allows for influence on retention and loyalty.
How is that?
- Customers have the ability to connect and converse with brands that they have a positive association with.
- This increases the presence of the brand in the person’s life and opportunities for them to interact with the brand.
- That influences the frequency they consider the brand and making future purchases with them.
- Throw in the virality of sharing information that engagement on social media networks provides, and you now have opportunities for conversation about your brand.
That message about your brand is being disseminated by someone other than you, the brand, and instead is being conveyed by one of the most influential sources for that person: someone they trust and feel connected with.
In fact, 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. The key component that allows social referrals to play a role in influencing the decisions of others is emotions.
The Role of Emotions in Consumer Behavior
Consumers prefer some brand name products because of the emotional associations they have with the brand.
- Because these consumers have had the opportunity to be exposed to the brand’s personality, and they’ve felt attracted to it. Just like we can find certain personality characteristics in other people to be favorable or familiar, “research reveals that consumers perceive the same type of personality characteristic in brands.”
Social media is where brands can express their brand personality and voice.
“The richer the emotional content of a brand’s mental representation, the more likely the consumer will be a loyal user.” Putting up an ad is great for visibility but doesn’t create opportunities for interaction, conversation, and the engagement that leads to emotional connections being created! Of those under 35 years old, 77% said that banner ads don’t influence their purchasing decisions. Websites are similar in their inability to interact with consumers; so much so that 50% of those who interact with brands on social media say that they find the brand’s Facebook page more useful than the company’s website.
How Social Interactions Affect Purchasing Decisions
- 81% of those under the age of 33 are on Facebook
- Of those individuals under the age of 33, 91% said they’d consider purchasing a product if a friend recommended it on Facebook
- 74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions
- 40% of SM users have purchased an item online or in-store after sharing/favoriting it on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest
- 50% of these purchases occur within 1 week
- 80% of these purchases occur within 3 weeks
The Role of Social Media is Not to Directly Influence Sales
Social media is about awareness, research, conversation, comparison/selection and connection. Its role is to provide an opportunity to grow both existing and potential customers into brand advocates, loyal fans, and repeat customers. In this way, its influence on sales is often indirect. If you’re looking for social media to drive customers directly into making a purchase, then prepare to be disappointed.
It’s about strengthening the emotional connection between a consumer and the brand, and leveraging the power of social sharing and individuals’ networks.
In the marketing toolbox, social media is not a television or radio or condo sales pitch; it’s a coffee house, a luncheon, a cocktail party. It’s a venue for mingling, for connecting; for discovering ideas and concepts and, most importantly, sharing. It’s about developing bonds and emotional ties; it’s about relationships.
Our social media whizzes can help you find the correct brand voice for your company and assist in building emotional relationships with your customers. We’ve seen the positive results social media has on brands. Are you ready to experience it yourself?
Start talking, start listening, start engaging with your audience; it’s time to join the conversation.