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Is Social Media the Biggest Influencer of Buying Decisions?

Over the years, social media has systematically graduated from a place where people go to catch up and engage in chitchat with friend and colleagues to the holy grail of marketing for most businesses, as well as a place where entrepreneurs and professionals signup to network.

Recent research shows that the role of social media on marketing decisions is startling, meaning it is time companies started putting more emphasis on their social media strategy. It is quite unfortunate that many businesses and organizations dive into the social media bandwagon without a clear strategy. As a result, they end up disappointed.

However, there is an overwhelming evidence that social media, if approached correctly, can be a goldmine—where companies can increase brand awareness and influence buying decisions of their following. Quite simply, social media is a peer influencer when it comes to making buying decisions, as 71% of consumers are likely to purchase an item based on social media referrals.

Social media influences decisions

Infographic - How social media influence purchase decisions by Invesp

According to marketing consultants, consumers purchase products to satisfy one or two main needs:

  1. Solve a problem—avoidance of pain or loss
  2. Increase pleasure—enjoyment and stay trendy

So the best way companies can sell their products is to find ways of influencing them to make a buying decision by showing them (customers) how the company’s product is going to either solve an existing problem—in a better way than existing solutions—or increase their enjoyment or pleasure. This is precisely the reason businesses and organizations should ensure that they establish a very big presence online, especially on social media. This is because 74% of consumers rely on social media to making a buying decision.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have allowed brands to effective endear themselves to a wider audience. For consumers, the best thing that ever happened on planet earth since the invention of wheels is social media. This is because social media a place where they can share information and make informed decisions when it comes to making buying decisions. Other reasons why consumers are so much in love with social media include:

  • Social media allows them to keep up with trends
  • They can learn more about the products and services of a company
  • They can provide feedback and join brand fan community
  • Take advantage of sweepstakes and promotions
  • Ultimately make an informed buying decision.

Recently, Forbes conducted research to see how consumers engage with different organizations and businesses such as retail, hospitality, entertainment and financial business through social media networks. They found that a whopping 81 percent of respondents admitted that recommendations and posts from family and friends directly impacted on their buying decisions, while 78% of people said that social media posts of companies influence their buying decisions.

Social media posts impact business purchases

Infographic - How social media influence purchase decisions by Invesp

Psychology of buying decisions

In order to understand why social media is such a big influencer when it comes to making buy decisions, it is important to understand the psychology behind it. Big decisions are often more complex than they appear. Smart marketers and sales people know a lot about buying decisions and how they are actually made.

Marketing psychologists generally agree that the reason social media has gained so much traction when it comes to consumer buying decisions is because of the following reasons:

  1. Buyers make emotion buying decisions—even the most rational buyers will somehow be influenced by emotions whether knowingly or unknowingly. We make buying decisions using both sides of the brain: the right-brain (subjective and intuitive) and the left-brain (logical and analytical). We are not robots, so it is highly improbable that we will make buying decisions purely on logical and analytical basis. Think about when someone buys something like a smartphone. They might have seen a sleek photo of the same on the social media post of the company selling it and rationalized the buying decision by looking up the specifications. This happens all the time on social media. Indeed, 41% of people who purchase a product say they just happened upon it and hadn’t thought about buying it or something like it. This is because emotions sometimes get the better of them and end up buying something they hadn’t planned. Even if one had planned to buy something and end up buying it, it is simply because there was some emotional element.In his book, Descartes Error, Professor of Southern California says that emotions are one of the most significant ingredientsto almost all buying decisions.
  2. Buyers are naturally suspicious—this is evidenced by the fact that sales representatives normally find it rough to convince customers to buy. Hence, strong emphasis is placed on the need to establish credibility and trust with customers before you even begin pitching your product. On that note, social media is very effective when it comes to convincing buyers to buy especially when they see their friends and family have bought a product. It is because they are being influenced by someone they can trust. According to Business2Community, 44% social media savvy women say their buying decision is influenced by a trusted blogger.
  3. A picture is worth a thousand words—companies are finding it easy to convince their brand fans to buy by publishing visuals, graphics and charts. Moreover, these are quite easy to share. Meanwhile success stories impact immensely on consumers. This is could explain why Pinterest leads at 43% among major social media networks when it comes to consumers being influenced to buy a product based on product information. It is followed by Twitter at 26% and Facebook at 25% respectively.
  4. There is safety in numbers—human beings in general have a crowd mentality. This phenomenon is behind trends and fashions because people opt to move together in large groups. Thus, it is easy to sway them when they are in groups. This is why social media has become a hit when it comes to marketing. People will largely be convinced to make a buying decision if their peers have already done so. All you need to do is to demonstrate to them how the same product has benefited their peers and friends. According to Channel Advisor, 83% of holiday shoppers are influenced by positive customer reviews. Moreover, research by Harris Interactive shows that 71% of consumer say that reviews from friends and family members excerpt a great deal of influence in their buying decisions.

Despite your tremendous efforts, do you find social media is not helping much to influence consumer purchase decisions? It is true that getting the best out of social media is not a piece of cake. Consumers are becoming more cautious when it comes to spending their hard-earned dollar.

So if you think that all you need to do to influence their buying decisions is to talk about your products on social media, then you may find that your efforts generally fall flat. You need to change your conversation style and draft messages that they can identify with. Creating content that is easily sharable is obviously going to boost your social media marketing strategy.

In essence, you need to create pages that have statistics, data, reviews from satisfied customers and product insights instead of staffing your social media channel with information about your company. In short, if your social media strategy is not working, it is because you need to have a re-think and revamp it rather than abandoning it. You have already seen that that is where the dollar is.

Thumbnail image via Shutterstock

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