Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 2, 2011 3:52 PM

Getting The Social Customer To Buy

Shopping is a social act. We'd like to think that it's the perfect fit for Social Media. Is it?

Between us friends, I've shifted and changed my presentations on Digital Marketing in the past few months. It has moved away (almost completely) from what brands either should be doing in the Digital Marketing and how to think about the space to being one hundred percent customer focused. I wish I had the source for the following thought, but someone recently said that this is the first time in the history of Marketing that the consumers are ahead of the marketers.

It's true.

What are brands really up to?

  • They're asking consumers to "like" them on Facebook while few actually make an effort to connect to those individuals on their own spaces.
  • They're asking customers to subscribe to the RSS feeds of their Blogs or share their content, while the brand editors spend zero time engaging in the comments on the Blogs being created by their customers.
  • They're looking for customers to follow them on Twitter, but don't actually push beyond their own tweetstream to build affinity and loyalty.
  • They're asking customers to watch their videos on YouTube, but few brands are doing anything unique on the channel. It's mostly their traditional advertising or a longer version of a TV ad.

Social Media is not a destination.

The greatest struggle facing brands is the paradigm shift away from Social Media being a destination to Social Media being everywhere - a simple and true part of their lives. Brands make the (wrong) assumption that people will go to Facebook, like their brand, do something on the wall, then the brand will be in a better consideration space for purchase further down the sales funnel.

Create a new scenario...

Here's some fiction for you: Sara needs a new sun dress. She goes online and does some research. She posts some options up on Facebook and asks her friends on Twitter to check it out and help her decide. Then, she heads down the store (if she hasn't made the purchase online) to buy the dress. Sounds realistic, doesn't it? It's only half of the story. Let's try again: Sara needs a new sun dress. She does some online research, posts some options on Facebook and tweets them up. Her friend, Mandy, sees the tweet and they text each other to head over to the mall together. While strolling through the mall, they're both not only chatting to one another, but they're connected. They're responding to text messages, they're being alerted to Facebook and Twitter updates, they're laughing at posts and - maybe - they're even checking in with Foursquare to see who else is around. While in the store, they notice a couple of other dresses, they snap some pictures and post them, but then a question comes up about the materials that were used to make the dress. Sara and Mandy do some quick online searches... nothing. They realize that the brand is on Twitter so they ask the brand directly...

...and so the story goes.

The new consumer is not linear. They are scattered. They are connected - not only to one another, but to the world - and their Social Media engagement is highly untethered. I'm often critical of brands who try to make Digital Marketing bend to their will instead of spending the time, effort and having the patience to build valuable credibility (which leads to loyalty). This is another prime example of that: your consumer is social... much more social than they have ever been before, but it's not a linear relationship (like the one they probably have with your flyers or coupons or five years ago with a website) and you're not going to be able to make them bend to your will, either. Facebook is not a destination in their worlds. Facebook is everywhere and anywhere.

This is not my consumer.

There are many brands who feel like smartphones, iPads and Social Media have no direct impact on them, because this type of consumer is not in their demographic. Those same people used to wonder why they need a website. Whether or not this is a current part of your customer's media and technology diet is irrelevant because it will be. The question is how long? Ten years? Five years? Two years? It's hard to say, but my gut says less than five years and closer to two years. Most brands are already in planning for next year, so this means it needs to get on the business slate now. Today.

Ask yourself this: are you really ready for the social customer (as they are and not as you would like them to be)?

By Mitch Joel