How social makes your life easier

So we can all talk to one another about brands and products in person and now online, but how exactly has social media made your life as a consumer easier? This year, I’ve seen clients up their spend on social media and online campaigns and so I want to distill some of the thinking behind how exactly consumers are now empowered by the tools available to them online.

To aid this blog post, I’m referencing some of the statistics released yesterday on M Booth and Beyond, published on Mashable, on ‘how to influence purchasing decisions on the web’.

I see three core drivers:

1. An increased propensity to share and trust

According to the statistics, 55% of consumers researching electronics are significantly influenced by comments in forums. This comes down to the basic purchase decision making process of trusting influencers to guide your thoughts. I personally find it amazing that we don’t know the people we read on forums and review sites whatsoever. Put more bluntly: would you trust a complete stranger off the street to recommend you on your next big electronics purchase? Michael McIntyre plays with the thinking behind these sites on his comedy roadshow and asks ‘who in their right mind goes online to write their reviews on a toaster?!’. A good question, but the fact remains that there is a group of people who will do this, and subsequently they empower other consumers to benefit from their good and bad decisions.

Indeed, if you make the right decision, you naturally want to self-affirm by telling others and influencing them to do the same. To the same degree, if you make a bad decision, your disengagement with the brand you’ve bought will lead you to dissuade others to make the same mistake you did.

It remains that review websites are the reserve of high involvement goods such as electronics, cars, homes and holidays, but say you now like a product you find in-store. What might stop you from ‘liking’ it and telling your friends via Facebook and Twitter? Right now the only thing stopping you is that technology has yet to catch up with your natural (increased) propensity to share.

2. Real time recommendations 

I’ve just put a question out to Twitter: should I buy an iPad2? Within 1 minute, two people replied. @Sararobinson81 said yes, @SeekTom said hold out for the iPad3 due out in a couple of months. Who to trust? Within another 5 minutes, @VenturaBlvd and @Rogerbeesley affirmed that I should wait.

I don’t often have geek outs, but this instant feedback and advice from Twitter is exactly how social media has become so powerful. It provides a vehicle for me to gain advice from those in my immediate circle and those I don’t know who are knowledgeable on the subject.

3. Brand interaction

When talking to brands about how they should be spending and engaging with it (Apple is an exception, Apple doesn’t ‘do’ PR), this is a prime opportunity. Using the iPad2 question able, the PRs behind Amazon Fire could get in touch and tell me no, I should buy their tablet instead. Indeed, why don’t I pop along and try one out (hint: if you’re listening, hit ‘contact me’!)

To date, a few brands have contacted me directly on Twitter, namely @nokia, @HermanFeeds and @CookerySchool. It’s a simple and yet highly effective tool to build relationships with consumers and I believe that in 2012 if people continue to get more time-short, we should start seeing more and more brands moving beyond social media as an advertising/promotional/CRM (issues and enquires)-led tool to a proactive engagement medium.

Imagine someone tweets ‘help, I need a new washing machine!’ In steps the likes of LG, Miele or Hotpoint to win over a consumer who converts into a long term loyal customer. In a more and more crowded market, here is a new space to start winning. It takes time and investment, but I think it could just pay off in the long term.

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