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State of the American Consumer

3 Social Media Marketing Takeaways From Gallup's Study

  |  June 25, 2014   |  Comments

A sizeable 62 percent of consumers believe that social media has no influence on their purchasing decisions. But is that really the case?

Understanding the key factors in your consumers' purchasing decisions is invaluable information for marketers. Without it you'd simply be taking a stab in the dark and hoping that your SEO, social media, advertising, and overall marketing strategies are sound.

Fortunately, companies like Gallup help take the guesswork out of consumer habits. Gallup recently released their new report "State of the American Consumer: Insights for Business Leaders." Here are the highlights.

1. Engagement Is King

Today's consumers are much more educated than consumers of years past. It doesn't matter if they are spending $10 or $10,000; they're doing their homework before forking over their hard-earned dough.

In addition to having a good product, you must also find a way to connect with these buyers through your marketing initiatives. While they are clearly doing their due diligence to make sure the investment is sound, they are also purchasing based on how they feel about your brand.

Gallup has created a Customer Engagement Score (Gallup CES), which includes three metrics that have proven to be linked to customer behavior. These items are:

  • Company always delivers on what they promise.
  • I feel proud to be a Company customer.
  • Company is the perfect company for people like me.

It's also important to remember that your engaged customers are worth more to your bottom line that those that are actively disengaged. In fact, Gallup found that on average your engaged customers represent a 23 percent premium while your actively disengaged customers represent a 13 percent discount.

2. Be Trustworthy

Maintaining or gaining a positive perception of your brand from consumers doesn't require a hefty marketing and advertising budget, but it does require attention to detail and some creativity. Consumers expect companies large and small to deliver what they promise. Gallup discovered that consumers invest twice as much when they are aligned with a brand.

Brand alignment predicts share of wallet

Every employee within your organization is a representation of your brand. It is the job of the management team and marketing department to make sure that employees understand what it is that differentiates you, and are able to speak about it eloquently.

Unfortunately, most companies have done a poor job of arming their employees with the proper information to speak about their brand.

According to Gallup's research, only 46 percent of managers and 37 percent of non-management employees strongly agreed with the following statement: "I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors."

It looks like it's time for marketing to focus on training internal staff on their brand elements.

Brand alignment by job role

The real question is, how can you get better aligned? Gallup recommends that brands:

  • Develop a strong brand promise.
  • Build the brand internally.

3. Be Realistic About the Value of Social Media

Seventy-two percent of U.S. adults state that they utilize social media channels several times a day. So naturally it would make sense for online marketers to utilize social media as a channel for brand engagement.

First, though, we need to understand why it is that people are utilizing social media. Marketers would like to believe that people are on social networks simply to interact with their brand. However, that isn't the case. In fact, the breakdown is as follows:

  • 96 percent utilize social media to connect with friends and family.
  • 29 percent utilize social media to follow trends/find product reviews and information.
  • 20 percent utilize social media to comment on what's hot or new/write reviews of products.

Gallup interviewed 18,000 consumers and asked them what influence social media had on their buying decisions. As marketers, the results aren't ones we would consider favorable:

  • 5 percent - a great deal of influence.
  • 30 percent - some influence.
  • 62 percent - no influence at all.
  • 3 percent - don't know.

While 62 percent of consumers may believe that social media has no influence on their purchasing decisions, we have to take a look at what that really means. Sure, users may not click on your advertising and make an immediate purchase, but that doesn't mean that your social strategy isn't having an impact on how they feel about your brand.

What Have We Learned?

Customers are people, not numbers. They want to be engaged and have trust in your brand before they'll make a purchasing decision.

We also need to recognize that while there is a significant amount of value in utilizing social media as a marketing channel, we need to be realistic about what we will gain by interacting socially. We may not see immediate gratification (a conversion or purchase) but we're spending time interacting where are customers are spending their time, and working to build trust in the process.

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Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the director of strategy and development for Gruen Agency, a Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency. She is responsible for the digital marketing strategy for the organization, which includes branding, search engine optimization, social media, content marketing, and PR.

Prior to joining Gruen Agency, Ashley was the director of marketing and client relations for Benovate, a population health management company. Ashley also held the position of marketing manager for TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing agency. Her areas of expertise include content marketing, social media marketing, communications, client relations, integrated marketing, marketing strategy, SEO, digital PR, blogging, B2B and B2C marketing, customer segmentation, and social media strategy.

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