5 Ways Social Media Impacts Consideration

Ask any marketer to draw you a picture of the sales funnel and you’ll get virtually the same picture.  There are a number of proposed ways to look at the funnel applied to social media, including a post I wrote last year about the New Marketing Funnel and the new book, Flip the Funnel, from Powered/crayon’s Joseph Jaffe.  What’s clear though, is that social media provides definitive means to impacting the “consideration” phase – when a customer makes the leap from awareness of a brand or product to evaluating, before committing to make a purchase.  Here are five ways that social media can impact a customer who is considering a purchase.

1. Research

When deciding to make an important purchase, like a car, a cell phone or a home, few people do so without evaluating options and doing some research.  You may have a friend who knows a lot about cars.  You might start searching online for consumer groups.  You might ask your family, neighbors, work colleagues.  Social media provides means do do all of the above online, including looking at reviews from perfect strangers.  It’s more relevant to look at reviews of products than to trust marketers alone.  Allowing user ratings and reviews on your product site, which can be moderated for abuse, can be a very effective way to engage in user generated content without the open-ended risk associated with a platform like Facebook.

2. Validation

Is there any truth to what my neighbor said about that product or service?  Or the recall rumor I just heard yesterday? Look at blogs, discuss on Facebook, search on Twitter.  Consumers can use social platforms to validate or refute information easily with their social graphs or through searching.  With Bing and Google indexing much of those discussions in real time, answers can be found immediately.  Separately if you have a perception of a brand (positive or negative), social channels can help validate those thoughts and views.

3. Creating an Emotional Connection

An emotional connection to a product, service or brand can influence purchase behavior.  Cause marketing can be an indirect way to build brand loyalty.  One of my favorite recent examples is the Chase Community Giving program on Facebook.  Personalized stories of real customers can also be a way to build an emotional connection.

4. Creating Touchpoints

How many brand touchpoints and impressions does it take to impact consideration?  I’m not sure, but chances are that it’s more than one.  An impression or interaction in social media can be measured in a lot of ways, but it takes multiple exposures to a brand to have it be front of mind when a consumer moves from awareness to consideration in the funnel.  Sure, no one actually talks about themselves moving from one stage in the funnel to another.  But as usage of social media grows, having a presence where consumers are will be a way to foster those impressions in a different way than traditional advertising.  Marketing behemoth Proctor & Gamble is exploring Facebook more aggressively for just that reason.

5.  Search

The folks at ComScore and GroupM have a great study that shows the impact of social media on branded search – just one way that shows how social media is impacting search.  Discussions related to a brand in social networks, discussion boards, forums, and on brand-owned assets will impact search results when a consume starts to look for information.  Brands can’t ignore the SEO implications of any content they own – Lee Odden has a great post about tools that can help optimize social content for search.

Think about the last time you moved from awareness to consideration.  What influenced you?  Did I miss any other way that social media could have impacted your decision process?

Photo credit: cpstorm via flickr

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