Social media is a strong source of website traffic for many businesses, but knowing how to manage experiences through this channel can be a challenge. There is a massive number of people engaged online through social networks. For instance, Facebook captures 1.28 billion active users every month through roughly 50 million pages (1). Meanwhile, Google Plus supports 540 million monthly active users who, in the majority of cases, have positive brand experiences through the network. LinkedIn has about 1.87 million users who are active every month, and more than two people sign up every second. However, identifying the most popular platforms and delivering content to potential clients doesn't go nearly far enough. You need to be able to identify how customers are using social media on the path to purchase in order to effectively capture their attention and establish a lasting relationship with them.
What platforms work best?
This is can be a difficult question to answer and will ultimately depend on your specific clients. However, broad market research can help fill in background information to create a clearer picture. For example, there are 107 million U.S. adults who belong to a minimum of two social networks (2). Of these individuals, 73 percent are members of three sites, and another 56 percent belong to four. Interests define which platform is most helpful. Among the major social networks, Facebook ranks first for engagement with brands and companies, while Linked in the clear front-runner in terms of business and industry topics. What's clear from the research is that customers aren't afraid to break off their relationships with a brand or business when relevance wanes. In fact, 61 percent of buyers on multiple social sites said they have stopped following or liking a brand when this occurs.
How do customers start the purchasing process on social media?
In many cases, customers and business partners want to get as much information about a product as possible before they choose it. This applies in multiple customer markets, but information technology decision-makers in particular have expressed strong interest in having in-depth product knowledge before they make a purchase.
Recent research found 79 percent of IT professionals in charge of making buying decisions highlight product information as impactful, and another 72 percent indicated vendor knowledge is very important when they're considering creating a partnership with a company (3). One of the best ways businesses can demonstrate their familiarity with a product is through social media. However, just 25 percent of vendors are reported to be knowledgeable. In many circumstances, quality of content that companies used to sway other businesses is lacking, meaning it's filled with marketing jargon or data from sources lacking objective data. Or, the information they find doesn't provide them with specific, factual information.
Where are customers getting their information?
Primarily, IT decision makers tend to share content marketing materials, such as white papers, emails and e-newsletters. This type of content is often full of more in-depth research, citing data from independent research firms, which provide more substantive insight.
Second, these customers often turn to conferences or case studies to see how a product or service is applied. Instead of just reading about how fantastic a product is, they can get a better idea of how it works and what solutions it provides.
Also, online discussion forums or social networks are often the first places that potential clients go to get information about product or service. Topics raised on LinkedIn, for instance, can breed thoughtful conversations about the strengths and weaknesses of a particular brand's offerings and generate interest among a wider buying public.
Accordingly, you need to ensure your social media marketing strategy aligns with the needs and preferences of the clients you're reaching out to, and give them the content they find valuable.