By Rieva Lesonsky
Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn—which social media network is the most important way for your small business to engage with consumers? The answer may be “None of the above.” A new study on consumer buying behavior, conducted by InCyte and released by GetSatisfaction, found that when it comes to influencing consumer buying behavior, a company’s website still matters more than its presence on social media.
In the survey of nearly 2,000 consumers, almost 90 percent of them said they prefer to visit a business’s website—not a social network—to research products and get more information before making a purchasing decision. The study’s authors suggest that consumers visit social networks for personal connections, but when researching products, they would rather use a branded customer community moderated by the brand in question.
The study also found that brand advertisements on Facebook or Twitter had significantly less value in influencing consumers’ purchases than did feedback from other consumers on brand websites. “Consumers are clearly saying that a primary value proposition of a customer community is that it allows them to quickly access information that is relevant and accurate – and they prefer it when that information is provided by other people like them,” said Dale Sakai, partner at the Incyte Group, in announcing the results.
While some companies attempt to give influential bloggers or other social media users free product to sway their opinions, the report found this tactic is often misguided. Instead, Incyte recommends, companies should turn to their existing customers to create more authentic “brand advocates.” The study found more than 82 percent of consumers said they’d be happy to be brand advocates after being part of a branded customer community. What’s more, half of them would do so even without an incentive of any kind.
Overall, the study says, there is a disconnect between how consumers want to engage with brands online and what brands are doing. “Consumers don’t just want to be broadcasted to. They want to engage with each other and companies about products and services they care about,” said Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction. “Social media strategy needs to include authentic customer engagement driven by a branded customer community.”
Want to find out more? You can download the full report here.
Image by Flickr user Horia Varlan (Creative Commons)