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Social Media’s Impact on Consumer Behavior

With the emergence of the real-time web, many businesses have been left on the sidelines, wondering where their organizations fit in such a fast-paced, consumer-driven ecosystem. Not only do they have to cope with a struggling revenue stream, but also with a customer base who’s behaviors are dramatically shifting right before their eyes. Almost every aspect of marketing a business has been affected by this fundamental shift in consumer behavior called, social media.

So what is social media? Brian Solis, globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media, believes social media is, “the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they share and create content in which others can participate.”  Technology is enabling consumers to converse, to share, to learn, and to buy, in new and tremendously easy and interactive ways. Access to an instant, always on web allows us to share what’s happening in our life right now, in real-time, with anyone in the global community who is willing to listen.

This capacity for interaction is driving a whole new breed of customer. A customer who is looking to engage with the brands they do business with in an honest and transparent way. The need for such an interaction stems from the manner by which this customer interacts online within their own peer groups. Whether it’s Facebook, Yelp, or a niche community forum, people are increasingly using the web to stay connected with their peers, enliven their lifestyles, and manage their day-to-day lives. No matter what the desire, these individuals are being empowered by, and through, social media. By utilizing social platforms, they are able to create a personalized ecosystem tailored to their specific wants, needs and preferences.

So how do the conversations happening online benefit your company? Firstly, connectivity through social platforms can produce a ton of invaluable marketing touches for true relationship building with your current and prospective customer. By establishing your brand presence on popular networks such as Facebook, and Twitter, you’re providing a social channel of communication for a customer to directly connect with your brand, based on their preference. Just remember to respect the fact that social media is best leveraged keeping permission-based marketing strategies at the heart of your efforts. Use social networks as a platform for two-way communication and not as a new way to shove your savvy salesmanship down their throat. By showing that you respect your customer’s boundaries, you are earning their trust and motivating them to further engage with your brand.

Secondly, monitoring social media can provide your brand with honest feedback and reviews that can help you improve your offerings, and in turn, better serve your customers. Increasing customer satisfaction should be a top goal for every organization, and leveraging the real-time web can provide your company with extremely useful qualitative data. Social media can provide your company with the kinds of data that used to take large investments and months of research. Your customers’ interactivity within the social media ecosystem is generating the marketing intelligence you seek to raise revenues, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction—the three pillars of profitability.

In closing, social media offers many opportunities for businesses looking to leverage the real-time web, but the strategies to do so are not just going to fall into your lap, thorough research and insight into social media is crucial to the development and execution of such strategies. Websites such as Mashable can provide you with industry news and trends, and for a deeper analysis on the subject, check out Brian Solis’ blog.

In future posts, we’ll talk more about actionable data, how to best monitor the social web and utilizing the tools available to do so.