Like, share, retweet, @ - and buy? Social media is changing the way we shop. Savvy marketers advise small business owners to develop their social media presence - but how exactly does this influence the buying decisions of your customers? Understanding the psychology behind social media influence can give local businesses just like yours the knowledge to leverage Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram into exposure, relatable interaction with customers, and maybe even the chance to go viral.
The Role of Social Media Today
From the days of AIM and The Facebook to an entire wealth of social media communication apps available on your phone, social media has come a long way. The ability to reconnect with old friends, share exciting details of your life with friends and family, and connect easily with others has made social media communication invaluable for users.
Sharing products you enjoy is part of the appeal. It's almost like adult Show & Tell. Businesses have gotten in on the game, as well, communicating with customers in 280 characters or less on Twitter or liking customers' posts on Facebook and Instagram. Developing a social media presence can increase exposure for a small business, leveling the playing field between them and larger, nationwide big-box retailers. If you've been neglecting your business's online presence and social media profiles, it might be time to take another look at the fans and followers you've been missing.
Consumer Buying Decisiveness Based on Reviews
The ubiquitousness of review sites has made feedback from consumers available at the touch of a button. More consumers are taking the time to look at reviews before they purchase, and many don't make large purchases or indulge in luxury items unless they've shopped around and read reviews first.
For small businesses, this has been a mixed blessing. The availability of reviews from local shoppers and satisfied customers has given local businesses exposure that previously was reserved for national brands and larger companies. On the other hand, one negative experience can really hurt a small business, especially since customers are more likely to publicly complain than praise.
Reviews aren't just limited to actual review sites – Instagram and Facebook are popular platforms for people to showcase your products "in action" and share their new discoveries with their friends. Your customers also have the opportunity to share their experience with your business, answer questions from their friends, and give advice for the best experience with your brand. In fact, a recent study shows that over 70 percent of purchases are based on reviews from family and friends.
Customers also buy based on the advice of popular bloggers and vloggers in their area of interest. For instance, a beauty blogger might feature a new make-up line, or a fashionista may debut a new style of jeans. Fans and followers of these niche social media influencers may purchase items in an attempt to mimic the aspirational lifestyle that these folks portray. Especially in the apparel industry, social media celebrities or “Influencers” are dictating trends, featuring the must have items – and even deciding which brands to avoid. For the younger demographic, millennials and teens, having the seal of approval from a popular vlogger or YouTube star is the key to driving more customers into the sales funnel.
To leverage review-based purchasing into more conversations for your business, encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on your website or talk about their experience on social media. You can also solicit testimonials from customers and feature them on your own social media profiles as well as the landing page of your website.
Awareness and Social Media Branding
Positive reviews from outside sources like BBB and posts about your product or service on social media sites may have an effect on driving traffic towards your business. However, if your own social media presence isn't strong, this momentum is likely to stall. Bland websites, stale content, and lack of engagement with site visitors or those who discover your social media platforms can actually turn people away from your brand. Many shoppers research online before buying, either on mobile devices looking for businesses nearby or reading reviews to compare similar goods and services. Your social media sites can play a role in influencing these decisions if there's an opportunity for customers to ask questions or interact with you or your representative. This type of sincere dialogue is increasing as customers demand a more personal experience.
Building awareness is instrumental in driving social media engagement that can ultimately initiate sales. Brands that have a considerable awareness from customers and social media influencers have a larger potential for tying in sales with their social media marketing efforts. You can increase yours by building an active, engaging social media presence. Include and interact with your customers and potential customers to build brand awareness on social media. If your business has been mentioned in a post, like the post and interact with the poster.
Advertising Campaigns on Social Media
In addition to having your own vibrant social media accounts, you can also place ads on social media. Establishing brand awareness through ads can direct potential customers to your own sites, including your website. Identifying your target audience is the key to successful social media advertising – and this includes which platforms to advertise on. Certain demographics tend to prefer some apps over others. In addition, younger users tend to be more likely to purchase via social media than others.
Marketing Week (reporting on a study from 2016) noted that 33 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds affirmed that they would purchase an item through a social media post on Facebook, while only 10% of 54 to 65-year-olds who responded said that they would do so. Depending on your target customers, your advertising campaigns may include a "shoppable post." Facebook ads allow customers to buy seamlessly, while those on other platforms actually direct customers to the retailer's own website. However, this may feel like a sales pitch for some users. Personalizing social media ads may reduce this impression, but you'll have to work a little harder to boost click-through rates in this case. Gathering data on your target customers can help here.
Many businesses have certain customer profiles, including their primary customer profile and secondary ones. Determining who uses your business the most allows you to target advertising that speaks to needs that these customers have. This can come in the form of creating consumer profiles, such as "young moms," "older couples," or "busy millennials." Your business may have more than one target customer, and that's normal. Once you've established who your target market is, it's easier to create different ad campaigns.
Don't underestimate the power of a deal. Many online shoppers look for specials and deals – in fact, using search query strings including discounts or coupons for a particular item may be how customers find you. Consider offering "evergreen" specials for new customers on your website, such as 10 or 20 percent off a first time purchase. You can also have specials that coordinate with your sales trends, taking advantage of higher demand for your services or creating a greater sense of urgency during slower periods with limited time discounts.
Advertising itself is fairly straightforward. Create, or hire someone to create, a captivating ad that targets a certain consumer type. Many ads can drive repeat sales by re-targeting their audience, increasing the lifetime value of customers and running them through the sales funnel again. This can also come in the form of seasonal social media ads offering discounts and deals. While your social media presence may drive brand awareness, having a discount offered through your social media advertising can boost click-through rates on your ads. Also, make sure you are directing those clicks to a targeted landing page so that you can either capture their information to generate a lead or push for sales.
Seeing a real demonstration of a product, whether it's a kitchen remodel or a tube of lipstick, makes consumers more likely to purchase. This creates a higher conversion rate than traditional ads. If you're able to work a short video into your ad, this increases the likelihood that consumers will purchase.
Making Social Media Influence Work For Your Business
Begin with your own brand profile. Produce fresh content and engage with followers. If you don't have the time or the social media savvy to do this on your own, there are a growing number of social media consultants who can help with the right hashtags and respond to interactions in a timely manner. Consider this a business expense just like hiring an accountant to do your taxes.
Some platforms, like Instagram and Pinterest, have "shoppable posts" with links to the products shown. This is a huge boon for businesses, as shopping through social media is only increasing. In fact, the top 500 retailers earned over $6.5 billion through social shopping - an increase of over 25 percent from the prior year. Your own social media posts can include a link to purchase the products shown, or you can also incorporate user-generated content into a shoppable post. Combining reviews with authentic content and the ease of online shopping can easily grow your business.
Bear in mind that social media, including product endorsement, is about building relationships. Successful social media brands spend a lot of time engaging sincerely with their followers. This level of authenticity isn't necessarily transactional. It's a more comprehensive brand presence that gives your customers a bit of ownership in your business. Authentic interaction with brands builds brand loyalty, especially among younger consumers. More than 60 percent state that they'll become "brand loyal" if the company sincerely engages with them over social media. This kind of brand loyalty increases the lifetime value of customers, as well as directs new ones to your business, through the power of reviews and recommendations.
Inviting user-generated content from your customers, including videos of them using your product or photos of themselves after service, is another way that you can leverage social media into business growth. For millennials, more than 80 percent are influenced to purchase after seeing content created by others. Allowing satisfied customers to post content including your business dovetails with the influence that reviews have on buying decisions. Many brands have had a lot of success with this, and inviting customers to share content about your brand encourages others to post. This builds your business occupancy spread. Remember, though, that you want to build relationships with customers, so make sure that you like and share content that they create. Having a dedicated social media service can help small businesses, especially those that don't have time to reply in a timely manner.
Social media can have a large effect on your business, not just from a sales and promotional standpoint, but also the perception potential customers have of you. Endorsement from niche influencers can go a long way toward helping you create and curate the brand representation that you desire and introduce more new customers to your business than traditional advertising might. Interacting sincerely with customers on social media builds trust in your brand, and allows you to gain a deeper understanding of what your customers want.