Are consumers' purchasing decisions influenced by social media marketing, or is it all a myth? I spoke to Scott Monty of Scott Monty Strategies to find out what his thoughts are and what brands ought to be doing to have real results from social media. Listen to the interview on iTunes, SoundCloud or keep reading for a summary of our conversation. And do check out LinkedIn Sweden's Welcome Talent portal and our event How to Draw Consumer Insights from Your Social Analytics on 24 March at Google Campus in London, both mentioned at the start of the podcast.
Tell us about "The Myth of Social Media" study?
Well, it was a headline-grabbing title, and something that obviously interested me. I was the Global Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Company for six years. So when you see someone claiming that this is a myth, it doesn't work, etc., you're obviously interested in delving into it. And as I dug a little deeper, it made a lot of sense, at least from the way that I assume the question was asked.
Gallup and Wall Street Journal surveyed 18,000 people and asked them where they got their influence for making purchase decisions. And as you can imagine, the vast majority of people - 92% in fact - said that they get their decisions from friends and family. And that's typical human behavior. I mean, if you're going to buy something, whether it's something as significant as a laptop computer or a smartphone, you're going to ask people that you trust, and trust is usually engendered with those that we know well. When it came time to getting their purchase decisions from social platforms - Twitter, Facebook, etc. - 62% of people said they did not trust those platforms. And I thought that was interesting.
And it's similar to a question that we've seen overall for quite a few years that people don't trust the platforms. Well, when you just finished asking them, "Who do they trust?" and they say, "Friends and family," and then you ask a follow-up question, "What are you on social networks to do?" It's to connect with friends and family. So when you parse apart this question and when you dig down a little bit deeper, what they're saying is they don't trust paid brand advertisements, paid brand placements on social networks.
So in other words, the marketing that they're getting from advertisers, from companies on social networks does not influence their purchase decision.
How should companies acquire new customers on social?
Well, I saw a study last year that said 71% of customers have left a brand because of a poor customer experience. Seventy-one percent, they've abandoned a brand. Yet at the same time, 63% of marketers say that the most important thing they can do is lead generation. Now, you have to wonder if constantly chasing new customers and taking your eye off of your existing customers is causing those existing customers to flee. Or if marketers simply recognize that they have a customer retention issue and their only solution is to go after new ones.
But the bottom line is if you treat your existing customers well, if you give them a reason to stick around - and I'm not just talking about discounts - if you make them feel valued, if you give them an experience that they want to talk about, that they want to share, that's how you engage your customers, and that's how you attract new ones.
How can companies become part of this authentic and real human conversation?
Well, when you look at the Gallup study that was done, they recommend behaving in what's called, and I'll use the acronym, ARC, A-R-C.
- A: They believe you need to be authentic, first and foremost, and that means acting as a real human being would act, and again being consistent with what you do, and not putting up corporate BS, so to speak.
- R: And then of course, the "R" in ARC is about responsiveness. In this day and age, people expect to be responded to in a timely manner. And when you don't, they've got the power in the palm of their hand, with their smartphone, they can go on to another website, they can engage with another brand, they can use other mechanisms to get what it is that they want. And if you're not doing this 24/7 because, let's face it, people can interact with your brand whenever they want, not just when your store is open, then they'll go elsewhere.
- C: And then the "C" in ARC is compelling. You've got to have compelling content. You've got to have a compelling reason for people to want to engage with you. It's not just about shouting from the tree tops why you're the best and that you've got a sale and all the rest. Are you doing things to improve the world? Are you giving them a chance to be the star for the day? Are you engaging them in a point of debate? Are you making them laugh? There's a lots of different ways to be compelling and to engage people's attention.