“Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be.”
That was the assessment of research company Gallup after it surveyed more than 18,000 consumers about the influence of social media on their buying decisions. While social media has produced undeniable marketing successes, 62% of user surveyed by Gallup said social media had no influence at all over their purchase decisions. Even among millennials (those born after 1980), 48% said these sites were not a factor in their decision-making.
And while many companies correlate the number of fans and followers with their social media success, Gallup also finds that these metrics can be misleading. Of the consumers who reported “liking” or following a company, 34% still said that social media had no influence on their purchasing behavior, while 53% said they had only some influence.
At issue is the reality that while social media platforms are powerful communications tools, and ingrained into most folks everyday living, consumers simply don’t see them yet as commerce engines and enablers. Gallup research shows that “the vast majority of consumers (94 percent) who use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking channels do so to connect with family and friends. They are far less interested in learning about companies and/or their products, which implies that many companies have social media strategies in place that may be largely misdirected.”
If companies want to acquire new customers, their best bet is to engage their existing customers and inspire them to advocate on their behalf, advises Gallup. “Customer engagement drives social engagement — the degree to which consumers will work for or against an organization within their social networks — not the other way around.”
Just about every communications medium that comes along eventually gets co-opted to some degree by marketers: phones, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, email, blogs, Web sites, and now social media. Consider, for instance, that the supposedly revolutionary and innovative companies such as Facebook and Google still make the vast majority of their money by selling advertising real estate (serving up eyeballs and hopefully calling them to action). In other words, these high-tech pioneers essentially rely on the same business model that newspapers have for hundreds of years.
Maybe Gallup’s research illustrates that consumers don’t necessarilty want every powerful form of communications to also be a powerful format for marketing.
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