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The social media opportunity

If it involves sales, it begins online. Tastes are shaped online. Products are vetted online. Referrals to vendors occur online. In fact, a staggering range of today’s transactions occur exclusively online! And at the center of all this activity is Social Media.

  • Social Media creates a direct connection with potential buyers and referrers
  • It’s a platform that uses dialogue to foster implicit credibility and trust
  • Use Social Media to achieve business goals as diverse as expanding your distribution network, deepening your supply chain, as well as tapping into new markets

Strategy | Messaging | Online Advertising | Sales Tools

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How important is social media for business?

infographic social media influence on buying No business can ignore the power of social media in driving sales and creating new markets. Social networks are quickly becoming the dominant force in shaping consumer behavior! 71% of today’s buyers report
they are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals than for any other reason. And 78% of these buyers check out what you’re saying online as well.

Whether you’re targeting consumers or business buyers, the sheer weight of numbers that access sources like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter is so large that it is impossible to overestimate the importance of these new marketing channels!

inforraphic facebook and google+ users There are 1.15 billion Facebook users! Google+ is approaching that number and growing at 33% per annum. Twitter has
550 million registered users. LinkedIn has 300 million. And all this social sharing doesn’t stop there. Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Vine and Slideshare generate millions of consumer hits per month! Count on your customers being well represented in all this activity!

infographic social media Statistics show that 89% of all buyers check their purchase decisions online before acting. A full 72% of these also access
social media channels before they buy. Why? Well for lots of reasons. Consumers want to know what other buyers are recommending. They seek additional product information. And they carefully weigh whether the companies they buy from are trustworthy!

infographic The demographics of social media users are just as important to pay attention to as these
behaviors themselves. 89% of 18-29 year old access social networks to inform their purchase decisions. 72% of 30-49 year olds seek information in this way. 60% of 50-60 year olds participate. And by 65 plus, social media access still runs at better than 43%!

2. How does social media affect buying behavior?

So what does it mean to your business when 89% of your buyers finalize their purchase intent online, and where another 72% of this group seek out the “word of mouth” endorsement from social media users before they make their purchase? It means that building and managing your social media profile is one of the single most vital sales and marketing activities you can invest in!

The first thing to realize is your responsibility to provide a wide array of fresh content. The obvious place to start is posting information that answers any concerns raised in customer reviews – demonstrating your commitment to listen and respond to consumer feedback. Where possible, answer any questions or concerns in the same online forums where the reviews are actually posted.

Doing so daily is good business for two reasons. First, search engines favor active posters, so by posting regularly you increase the likelihood that all your content will be seen and read. The other reason is that a growing number of consumers use smartphones to access the internet just prior to buying, and aren’t likely to see more than the first couple of reviews – and you need to be there too!

Making special offers to social media users is also good for business. If you offer specials or coupons, promote them across social media platforms. And don’t hesitate to engage customers even further! Smart marketers ask customers to sign up for product and service alerts over social media, and include questionnaires to gather personal information on buying preferences and shopping trends.


 

Social media thrives on consumer interaction. Nearly 93% of social media users have posted either a product recommendations or a product criticism online! In fact you could argue this is the key function of social media in a commercial sense. In light of this it is naïve to think of it as a platform to place sales propaganda. Instead, see it as an extension of your customer service thrust.

3. What kinds and quality of interactions do consumers want or need from social media?

One of the most revealing studies of consumer expectations related to social media was conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in 2011. Its findings are just as relevant today as when the study was first released. Most importantly, its findings demonstrate the very positive kinds of interactions consumers are looking for from the bands they follow over social media channels.

What do consumers most want to experience? 55% report they want to learn about interesting new products or services. An even larger group, 65%, seek out discount offers, special promotions or contests that they can access exclusively online. 25% specifically use social media to interact with other consumers, and 32% are actively seeking a forum to share positive consumer experiences!

Contrary to what many marketers fear, most sources report that less than 20% of social media users join online discussions to air their complaints or to bad-mouth products, brands or companies. It turns out that online communities are overwhelmingly forums for positive social and consumer interaction! The CMO study also demonstrates this important underlying consumer trend.

Perhaps most challenging for marketers is the high expectation for immediacy in providing a response to information requests made online. The numbers clearly indicate that consumers expect companies to monitor social media feeds in real time. Most are unwilling to wait more than 24 hours for a response – with 19% reporting that they want their queries resolved within hours!

But there’s a big payoff for companies that develop strong proactive and reactive social media programs. 33% of customers report that this form of online interaction is the perfect way to build brand loyalty and sales. The stakes are so high that many companies are revising their marketing spend to substantially increase their budgets to maintain an effective social media capability.

4. How are companies responding to the social media challenge?

The 2011 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council study also looked at how marketing professionals are changing their views toward social media – particularly in light of their initial experience with the new communications channel. While 52% feel social media has positively impacted their brands’ influence, 67% report they lack proper in-house resources and budget to manage this effort.

Just as large as concerns about staffing and budgets is a growing sense that building a social media program is anything but straightforward! As one CMO respondent noted, “We are worried about what we don’t know … and what we are missing!” Most companies suffer a “disconnect” between traditional brand tactics and the totally novel demands of social media participation.

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