Research giant Gallup released its State of the American Consumer Report in June of this year with the overarching finding that few brands are winning the battle for consumer engagement. Those that are, inevitably steal share and pull away from the competitive pack.
"Doubling the percentage of your fully engaged customers -- your true believers -- will boom organic growth and your stock price and will transform the very character of your company," said Jim Clifton, Gallup Chairman and CEO.
Naturally, a popular method for building consumer engagement is through social media. The Gallup study provides a finding that you may find disconcerting, if you are investing heavily in social media. Only 35 percent of consumers cite that social media has influence on their everyday purchase decisions. That number grows to 53 percent, however, when a consumer likes a brand page. While higher, you may still find this stat surprisingly low. Let's take a deeper look.
The study measures the impact that a brand's Facebook or Twitter profile has on buying decisions. Numerous studies, including those by Gallup, indicate consumers are much more likely to turn to friends, family or even reviews by other consumers when making purchase decisions than they are company-provided promotional content. Social media is a perfect platform for a consumer to gather this type of third-party feedback by either actively asking friends for a brand recommendation or reading passively about their friends' brand experiences.
So while a promotional tweet may not drive direct measurable sales, brands engaging in authentic two-way conversations with consumers -- at the heart of a strong social media strategy -- are more likely to create brand champions that actively promote your brand through their personal social profiles.
Consider also that consumers have historically grossly underreported the impact that any form of advertising has on their purchase decisions. No one wants to admit they can be so influenced. The far more accurate measure is in their behaviors.
Social media offers some of the most robust analytical capabilities of any marketing channel. Fully leverage this data, and you can measure how many people click through from your Facebook page to your website, how many of those people request an estimate or more product information, and how many of those purchase. Even with that kind of tracking, it's difficult to assess all the factors that influenced a consumer's decision to buy from you, but at least you know that social played some role.
Here's the most important takeaway from the Gallup study: consumers want to use social media to connect with friends and family and to follow trends. Scrap your brand's self-serving promotional agenda, and engage with consumers through social media on their terms.
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