Social media's impact on the B2B and B2C customer journey

Carrie McIlveen

16 March 2018

Ten years ago, if someone told you that your clients would be purchasing your products or services via a post or tweet, you might have thought they were a bit foolish. Now, however, social media plays a significant role in the customer journey.

Social media is not only transforming the investigative abilities of those who are researching brands, it has changed the entire sales funnel—turning nearly every aspect of the customer experience on its head. No longer just about conversations, social media is now also about commerce.

According to a Social Buying Study from the International Data Corporation (IDC), 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research vendors. And this shift isn’t specific to B2B companies. B2C businesses are benefiting from social media’s purchasing influence too. HubSpot reported that 71% of consumers are more likely to make their purchases based on social media referrals.

This change in the way consumers shop and purchase reveals new opportunities for marketers to increase their chance of influencing customer behavior in this new paradigm. If you aren’t already focused on social media and its impact on the buyer’s journey, now is the time to start thinking about it. Here are a few factors to consider:

How Consumers Make Decisions

The notion that consumers are logical decision-makers with time on their hands is not realistic. Each of us makes thousands of decisions every day: what to eat, what to wear, whom to see, where to go. A shopper’s mind is not a clean slate and the journey is not a precise formula.

There are multiple paths through the discovery, consideration, and decision stages. Of course, product quality, trust, and seller reputation matter. But there is growing evidence that many decisions are made less on rational grounds and more on emotional ones through an unconscious basis.

Marketing’s ultimate objective is to decipher how to best understand, engage, and influence these social-savvy decision-makers by driving mutual value between consumers and brands to increase conversion rates. Delivering resonant content at the right time and on the right social media channel, and relating it to the broader customer journey, is an advantage that all marketers should aim for.

How Social Media Fits In

Most consumers are now carry posting and purchasing power around in their pockets with them every day. Nearly two-thirds of those people are spending time online with an average 12 hours a week spent on social media.

Consumers are self-educating, evaluating brands and products themselves and continuously providing real-time feedback on social media. They no longer need to rely solely on friends for recommendations—they have peer reviews, influencer testimonials, social updates, post-sharing options, live streaming, discussion groups, videos… you get the picture. Buyers have access to more information than ever before.

In particular, if you’ve been keeping an eye on inbound marketing, you know social video is trending as a source. According to Cisco, by 2021, 82% of content consumed on the internet will be video. This will have a significant impact on lead generation and brand awareness.

An illustration of how social platforms are transforming the customer experience through video can be seen in the YouTube classic, “Cat in a shark costume chases a duckling while riding a Roomba.” Initially, you may laugh as you watch the video; however, this video has had more than 10 million viewers, who are all now aware of the Roomba, and its public profile continues to exceed that of the typical vacuum cleaner.

In another instance of how video can encourage behavior, Metia worked on an influencer video for the National Environment Agency in Singapore. We partnered with an influencer group called The Smart Local to create a video that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Semakau landfill. Although the word “landfill” probably conjures up images of piles of garbage, that misperception is pleasantly altered when viewers experience the diverse ecosystem of plants, sea life, and a peaceful bird-watching environment. This type of video helps to raise awareness of the importance of waste management and assists in cultivating an eco-conscious community in Singapore.

Both examples communicate a story in unique ways and engage emotionally—one through humor and another through the importance of protecting the environment. The overall goal is to ensure that you are identifying the best way to tell your user’s story and in the right format.

Who Consumers Are and Where to Find Them

There’s no point investing time or money in a social network if your customers aren’t there. You need to understand where your target customers are on social networks and how the landscape may change.

Start by asking yourself a few fundamental questions: Which social platform(s) is my audience using? How do I engage with them without selling to them? Can I bring value to the conversation? What content and format should I use?

Many brands fail to realize or capture the impact and need to do a much more in-depth dive into the platforms. This requires new techniques and technology solutions including artificial intelligence (AI), social listening tools, and machine learning. Consumers are sharing their thoughts, concerns, and problems publicly. Taking advantage of these insights can get you closer to the customer faster and better.

By revealing and dissecting the different touch points, marketing channels, and key metrics on social media, brands are empowered to provide the right content to drive consumer action at each step in the funnel. And we are only beginning to scratch the surface on what information can be revealed. Social media provides an opportunity to capture a wealth of data, improve the customer experience, and influence touch points that matter.

Where Content Fits In

So where does content marketing fit into the buying cycle for social media? The answer: everywhere.

Brands have an opportunity to “interrupt” the decision-making process by having a greater grasp on their social platforms and identifying the key moments of truth when they can deliver relevant content. Don’t post content just for the sake of posting.

Successfully integrating and fully aligning content and social media marketing takes a dedicated effort. It’s not a one-size-fits-all process. Building content with an engaging social media marketing strategy will not only impact where your customers spend their time online but also their money–making the effort well worth it.