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Social Media is the new face of our society and impacts a large portion of life of millenial generation. This post discuss its reach and how companies are converting this medium as an opportunity to influence purchasing decisions

How to Use Social Media to influence Purchasing Decisions

It is one thing to drive traffic to your website and another to convert that traffic into actual buyers. Many businesses out there in the digital world are suffering from poor conversion rate and are susceptible to lose their visitors without making any actual transaction. The main reason behind this is the ill knowledge of understanding the consumer buying behavior and what are the motives that drive consumer purchasing decisions.

In this post, I am going to explain both of these phenomena, so you can leverage this information according to your business goals and achieve higher conversion rates.

Know Your Consumer (Purchasing Behavior):

Millennial Generation or people who were born between 1977 and 1995 are the biggest and most influential component of present consumer cloud. This generation heavily relies on digital media and regards traditional media, not very trustworthy. Crowdtap did a survey in January 2014 which revealed that an average millennial spends 18 hours of his day on one digital device or another and is connected with media through it simultaneously.

Millennial Generation consumers spend $600 Billion every year and by 2020, this figure would go as high as $1.4 trillion per annum.

Here is a breakdown by media types which keep this biggest section of consumers engaged and thus influence their purchasing behavior:

  • Surfing Web/ Googling: 20%
  • Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.): 18%
  • Watching Television (Real Time): 13%
  • Watching Television (Pre-Recorded): 10%
  • Gaming: 10%
  • Listening Radio: 7%
  • Going to the Movies: 7%
  • Texting apps, chatting and emailing: 6%
  • Talking with others about products and brands: 6%
  • Reading Magazines or Newspaper or other print media: 3%

As you can see, traditional media constitute less than 40% of Millennial Generation’s time. Also, when asked, what media type influences their purchasing decision, 53 % of Millennial Generation said User Generated content on the internet is the most reliable influencer in consumer purchase.

Nielson Survey, which was done in 58 countries in 2013 showed that 84% people have credited word of mouth as the reliable source of advertising which affects consumer buying decision and 64% of them rely on online reviews and consumer opinions as an honest source of product promotion. These consumer opinions and reviews are the user-generated content on the internet. They can be classified into five types:

  • Product/Brand conversation with friends and family, 74% of people are influenced by that.
  • Peer Reviews, 68% people trust them while making purchasing choices.
  • Email/ Texting affects 56% of buying decisions process.
  • Social Networking content has 50% impact.
  • Blogs, forums, bulletins and boards constitute 48% buying decisions.

Why people buy? Or how people make buying decisions?

When asked why people buy? There are 7 important between the line takeaways that the internet offers us:

  1. Importance of online reviews, in influencing purchasing decisions process, tells Product Quality is the highest priority of consumers. According to a survey, 56% say yes or no on this aspect.
  2. Another thing which is part and parcel of online reviews is price comparison with rival products and services. This factor affects almost 80% of buying decisions.
  3. 62% of customers like to research on the internet before buying an item.
  4. Video walkthrough are a major insight when it especially comes down to tech products, every 9 of 10 consumers have accepted to look for that prior to buying.
  5. 78% of consumers use their smartphones to know a product better before buying it.
  6. 81% consumers trust their friends’ opinion on a brand and 30% people responds when a friend posts about a product.
  7. 44% people are encouraged to buy a product or service that contains pictures, In terms of video, the figure is around 40%.

Leveraging the data for your products and services:

Build Conversation over Content

In most of the cases, companies fail to create a good turnover over World Wide Web because of the inability to harness the true power of social networking. Small business and large, both can create a deeper meaningful connection by engaging masses over social network. There are many ways for initializing the activity over social media and encourage your clients and general audience to participate.

  • Highlight your employees over Facebook, Seomoz does that by using their page’s Facebook photos feature. It not only helps to connect with your employees better but also shows the human side of your organization to fans.
  • Sending personalized messages to fans and clients on Twitter will always boost your image. This works the other way around too, include the Twitter handle of the personnel who is behind the new announcement or feature and increase your reach and familiarity.
  • Google+ is probably the most undervalued social media. Creating circles and communities help your Google+ page to build an audience and at the same time classifying them in different groups, so you can converse with them more directly. Hangout is a great feature to have a personalized interaction at the same time and build up valuable discussions.
  • Similar to Google+ communities, you can use LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn will help to find more professionals.
  • Get creative with your Pinterest board, Instagram Hashtags and Tumblr by motivating the audience to participate in digital activities.

Building Brand Evangelism

There are no better advocates to defend and promote your products and services than brand loyalists. Every time your fans share your content, campaign or products with their friends and relatives, it means they have given you their stamp of approval. However, to make it happen you first need to find these brand loyalists.

When it comes to content marketing and social marketing, companies usually spend too much time in creating brand awareness and thus largely ignoring brand evangelism. I have already pointed out earlier that the word of mouth is the biggest influencer in buying decisions. So by giving ample of concern towards turning your fans into cheerleaders will not only automate your selling but these fans have farther and more impactful reach than a company itself can ever achieve.

A prominent example, of using content marketing for building brand evangelism, is Go Pro. Go Pro builds video camera that can be mounted on helmets. The company curates videos from its customers and showcases it on their own channel. This not only a great way for potential customers to see the product in action but also helps existing customers to promote their own YouTube channel by getting mentioned.

Invest in the relationship with influencers.

This is a give and take relationship. Nobody is going to give you high regards in their opinion unless you have pleased them. Just like any other promotional campaign you should invest to expect returns. A good case study for long term planning is Ford’s campaign for Ford Fiesta. The company engaged hundreds of bloggers, celebrities, and tweeters by providing them Ford Fiesta for 6 months including facilities like gas, parking, and insurance. In exchange, these influencers created quality content which added weight to the features advertised on TV and Print media.

As a result, Ford Fiesta’s launch was a huge success and 6,000 cars were pre-ordered by younger audience.

Setting Long Term Goals

Relationships only flourish when they are long term, also you cannot change everyone’s mindset in a day, hence, plan your strategy for a longer period. The objective, for planning long term, is to create enough brand recall among their fans that the fandom should evolve into brand evangelism. There is also a principle of cognitive fluency which states that the human mind tend to prefer things that are easier to understand. So longer you stay in their minds, simpler and familiar, you become.

Methods to Influence Consumer Purchasing Decisions:

Here are few methods which you can implement right now to boost your internet marketing.

Change the Way You Converse on Social Media

The hardest business to learn about social media is that they channel the way consumer wants to use them and not how the business would like to use them. Social Media are meant to make conversations and connections not to promote businesses. A company needs to engage fully with their existing audience. If social media perceives your messages sincere, then only they will convert into customers. Change your conversation and your objectives, social media are not about driving sales but to create relationships and positive customer experiences.

Appealing the Millennials

Millennials are the driving force of this particular platform, they consume information from multiple sources and are hyper-connected. They know what they want and decide for themselves. While they are enthusiastic about honest, authentic marketing but don’t want to be spoon fed. Let them take command of the conversation after initiating. Also, make content mobile-friendly and tailor it to meet their needs and preferences. Generic messages will do no good.

Balance between Online and Offline media.

Customer engagement depends on how well a business aligns all of its touchpoints. Digital media do not and will not work in a vacuum. Above given Ford campaign too was also working on a base of TV and Print advertising campaign. The key is to harness an emotional engagement with users by online and offline presence around them.

Try to be Available at All Time

Social media work 24/7, and its users are highly impatient because that is the way this thing works. Scale your customer service for social media accordingly. Brand evangelism can also help you by creating an online community where diehard fans volunteer to help on behalf of you. Another option is to create how-to articles and other such documentation and making them easily available. Be calm and friendly all the time and reply negative feedback accordingly.

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