How Social Media Impacts Consumer Buying was originally published on Forbes.com.
The powerful effects of social media on businesses and brands have been proven. Over the past decade, the adoption of social media as an awareness, selling, and customer relationship management tool has moved from large brands to Main Street mom-and-pop stores.
We know that we need to be where our target audience is online, but do you truly understand how social media usage plays a role in the consumer buying process? With seven in 10 Americans using social media, it is very likely that the vast majority of your customers (or potential customers) are already online. It is important to take into consideration how that affects your current and potential customers so that you can craft social strategies that align with both consumer expectations of the brand and, of course, sales for your business.
While some people create an account on these mediums to simply connect with friends or loved ones, social media is now more intertwined with business than ever. Popular social media platforms have integrated a wide variety of options for consumers to conjugate with brands and companies alike, even offering the ability to make purchases of goods or services directly on an app.
For example, Facebook first implemented a “buy” call-to-action button on ads and page posts back in 2014. Adopting this feature gives users the opportunity to make a purchase of a product without interrupting their scrolling. Many other mediums have followed suit, and other marketplaces, like Instagram Shopping, are more popular than ever. Listing products in the dedicated “Shop” tab gives your items exposure to a wide breadth of audiences that were previously inaccessible if you were a brick-and-mortar location that required consumer foot traffic to make a purchase.
Setting the focus of your social selling strategy toward advertising your products or services on these apps is one of the ways to bridge the gap between future customers and the long-standing issue of “how do I share what my business offers to fresh eyes?” Consider social selling as part of your overall sales strategy.
The algorithms of social platforms with buying options help to expose your brand’s services or items to relevant audiences dictated by triggers such as demographics, geography, and interest, all with the help of paid promotion. Set aside a monthly budget for promoted posts or product ads to increase sales and utilize costless tactics such as including relevant and popular hashtags on posts to drive up organic reach.
It’s also important to recognize the effect of social media on consumer buying choices when considering the power of recommendations. Most modern consumers carry their purchasing power in their pockets, and when they’re not buying, they utilize social networks for reviews about a product and where to (or not to) shop from. With 80% of consumers making buying decisions based on a friend’s social media post, the era of virtual word-of-mouth recommendations is in full effect.
Consumers gravitate to brands that are hospitable, humanized, and relatable, and expect companies to interact with them in a meaningful way that goes beyond an advertisement or product listing. Taking steps, such as answering Facebook or Instagram inquiries, or even something as simple as responding to a tweet showing excitement about your product or service, can boost your brand’s reputation and increase the likelihood of a consumer recommending you to others. Build a relationship with followers and customers to increase consumer satisfaction and bolster the likelihood of those coveted positive social media recommendations to peers.
On the other hand, a negative recommendation of any kind can be detrimental to your brand. Thankfully, consumers have entered a new dimension of two-way engagement with brands on social media. The days of latency on the phone while seeking a customer service representative have passed, and an era of contactless, voiceless assistance has entered. Social listening, active community management, and, well, being social on social media can help keep that negativity at bay.
Consumers seek honesty and rely on other sources such as influencers when it comes to making buying decisions. Hiring a popular influencer in your brand’s niche to put a spotlight on your product or service can make a difference if handled correctly. Just one positive review conducted by a recognizable influencer has the capability of causing an influx in popularity and, more importantly, sales. Many larger influencers, like the mega- and macro-influencers, can be hired through an agency, while smaller influencers, like nanos, can be reached by sending a direct message or email to create a line of communication and begin the process of getting your brand in front of their audiences. The benefits of a positive recommendation to a large audience typically will greatly outweigh the monetary value of an item, so don’t be hesitant to give out a promotional product at no cost.
Social media has created a level playing ground for brands and consumers, unlocking a never-before-seen type of relationship between the two. Social platforms are modern-era storefronts and serve as the liaison between customers and your products.