The advent of social media has opened a new avenue of marketing for corporations. The traditional 'word-of-mouth' publicity has been replaced by the 'word-of-web', as consumers are increasingly referring to social media sites before making a purchase, greatly influencing buying behavior. Though most companies these days have an official website which has complete information about their products, consumers usually engage with a company after reading reviews and feedback from existing customers. Before buying a product, every consumer wants to make sure that the product is the best in its class, and offers good value for money. Advertisements don't always give a fair idea, as every company claims supremacy of its product. This is where social media plays an important part in defining consumer behavior. People who have already used the product describe their experience - its strengths, weaknesses etc., and this helps in disseminating information. People are more likely to trust those who give an impartial account of a product rather than a celebrity who is paid to endorse the product. Social media enables people from all over the world to form a community of consumers, giving them the power to harm or herald a company.
Social Influences on Consumers' Purchasing Behavior
Various industry bigwigs have conducted researches and surveys to know the impact of social media on consumer behavior, and it has been found that consumers would like to have an interactive relationship with a company, so that they can easily pass on feedback, suggestions, and complaints. Given the nature of social media, anything - positive or negative - that is being said about your product or company is easily accessible to a global community of consumers, which essentially means that your business and your marketing strategy can be hailed or harmed in a matter of hours. So, if Mr. A was contemplating buying your product, and he happened to read some not-so-good news about your company or product, chances are that he may chuck the plan and review his decision once again, whereas a positive review could have bolstered the chance of him buying the product.
Social media has opened up a new opportunity, both for the business and consumers, to interact with each other on a real-time basis. Therefore, the onus is on the corporate houses to envisage a strategy so that they can make their presence felt on the social networking scene. Some companies have taken a head start, but for it to be a success, it is essential that their site is easily accessible. There is a plethora of information on a social media site, and if your service is not up to the mark, you can easily be oblivious to the public eye. It is very important that your business has a formalized social media presence, with a designated workforce to ensure its smooth functioning. It will not only help in building customer relationships, but also in introducing the brand to potential consumers.
How Companies Can Create a Strong Social Media Presence
Many companies, just to join the bandwagon, spread themselves too thin by creating their profiles on innumerable websites, which can create a disconnect with the consumers if the company fails to respond. There are certain things that a business should take into consideration before putting itself up on social media. Let us take a look at some of these.
Know Your Target Audience
It is very essential for companies to get an insight into the demographics of a website regarding the income-group, age-group, class, ethnicity, etc. When you have this information, you can decide whether putting yourself up on that website would be feasible for you or not.
Serve, Don't Sell
When you put your business on a social media site, the onus should be on engaging a consumer in an open conversation. Some of the most popular websites, such as Facebook, allow you to create a business profile, with an option that users can become 'fans'. The more 'fans' you are able to create, better the dissemination of information related to your brand as each time they log on, they will be updated with all the activity around your brand. It is important that you use social media in such a way that helps you in brand building. When you build a strong foundation for your business, and people are able to connect with you, it is very likely that sales would follow automatically. Remember the adage, 'A sale is something that happens when you are serving your customers.'
Pay Attention to Consumers' Opinion
It is important that you keep an eye on what is being said about your company. The conversation between consumers can give you some information on what they are expecting from the brand. Consumers can help with their opinion on how they perceive you as a company, and what improvements can be made to strengthen your brand.
The current trends in social media marketing indicate that social media would be a force to reckon within the near future. The bottom line? A strong social media presence can really make a difference to your business, and considering the fact that thousands of people are joining one or the other social networking site each day, it is imperative that corporations use this medium effectively.