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Social media is constantly evolving and changing with more and more people around the world jumping on the social media bandwagon. This has impacted and influenced the buying behavior of the people. People are much more informed now and like to read opinions and reviews of other people online before buying any product or service. This report will look at how the buying behavior has been impacted and which stages of the decision making process have been influenced by the rise of social media. This has also changed the way companies used to market their products and services. Now, companies also need to use social media to interact with their customers, market their products, solve the problems faced by customer etc. Social media has given a wonderful platform to the companies for a two way interaction with the customers. Further, the younger generation has been impacted the most as they are the majority users of social networks and hence their buying behavior has under gone a drastic change.
Table of Contents
The report will analyze how social media has impacted and influenced the buying behavior of people. Nowadays it is common to see everybody around us joining Facebook, Myspace, Twitter etc. The interactions of people on these social networks impact their opinions about various products which in turn influences their buying behavior. This influence will be analyzed using relevant theories related to buying behavior and social media usage.
What is Social Media?
Social Media is defined as the use of web-based and mobile technologies which turn communication into interactive dialogue. Kaplan and Haenlein (2009) define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” There are various internet based applications which are driven solely by the media generated by the consumers. These applications act as a platform where users from around the world interact with each other on topics which are of interest to them. Some of the famous social media websites are Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, MySpace etc. Facebook has more than 600 million users around the world and an estimated 41.6% of the U.S. population is on Facebook (Wells, 2010). These figures show just how popular social networks like Facebook are and how everybody is jumping on the social media bandwagon.
Consumer Buying Behavior Process
Consumer Buying Behaviour is the decision making process he/she undergoes while choosing a product or a service. The basic steps in the process are as follows:
Need Recognition – The buyer identifies the need for which the product or service is required.
Alternative Search – He/she searches for the alternatives that are available in the market in this stage.
Alternative Evaluation – Evaluation and comparison of all the alternatives on various factors is done in this stage.
Purchase Decision – The buyer chooses the best alternative and buys it.
Post Purchase Evaluation / Dissonance – This stage involves evaluating the benefits of the product / service after using it and forming an attitude about it.
How Social Media affects the Decision Making Process ?
People from all over the world use Social Media to create and share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other. Social Media affects the “Alternative Search” and the “Alternative Evaluation” stages of the decision making process. Lets see how it does that.
Alternative Search – After the consumer has identified the need for a product or service, he/she goes on the internet and searches for the same. The search results give an idea to the consumer about the alternatives that are available in the market for the required product or service. The various search results take him to various blogs, review sites, online retailers, Facebook page of the product etc. The user forms an opinion about the product after going through the various reviews and comments about the product which are posted by people from around the world on various social media websites.
Alternative Evaluation – After knowing the available alternatives the user zeros in on two or three brands which satisfy his need. He/she then goes on the internet to do a comparison between the brands and to know the opinion of other customers who hav used that brand below. Additionally, the user may post on his Facebook / Twitter account asking his friends about their opinion on which brand he/she should go for. After considering the reviews on the internet and the opinions of his friends, the user then decides the particular brand that he/she will finally buy.
This is quite different from what previously used to happen in the above two stages i.e. before the coming of social media. Previously, the consumer had no option but to go to the market and visit various shops to find about the various alternatives that are available in the market that satisfy his need. Further, the consumer was solely at the disposal of the retailer for the comparison of the available alternatives and for reviews of the same. The retailer further pushed the product which fetched him the greatest margin irrespective of whether the product is good or bad. The chances of this happening now have become very less because the customer has become much more informed now.
How has social media changed the nature of promotion and communication to target markets?
Before the coming of social media, the information about a product or service originated from the company and was distributed through the sales rep, distributors and the retailers. But now customers have access to this information directly from the company website or by using Google Search, Facebook etc. The information is available on many websites on the internet and the customer is talking to his/her peers to form an opinion about the product. Thus it becomes essential for the companies to ensure that correct information about their products is easily available on the internet. Hence, companies have started using Google Ads and Ads on Facebook etc. to promote their products. They can also use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to promote their websites by increasing its visibility in search results. SEM industry in USA was 16.6 Billion Dollars in 2010 (SEMPO, 2011). Further, they can create official Facebook account for their products or services so as to give a platform to their customers to discuss the products. These accounts also act as an information channel which works both ways. The company is able to educate the customer about their product, its features, recent promotions etc. and at the same time the company benefits from the consumer feedback it gets from the consumers of its products. The company can further use this feedback to improve and create better products for the future.
In the case of Twitter, companies can create an account where they can proactively update their customers aka “followers” with new updates, answers etc. It is also essential for the company to keep its followers engaged by coming up with different contests and promotions from time to time. This also helps spread the awareness of the company’s Twitter account as the company gets more and more followers.
Who are the most receptive target markets ?
Around 53% of the US Facebook users are aged between 18 – 34 (Corbett, 2011). This clearly shows that the young population is the most active on social networks and hence is the most receptive target markets for the companies. Young users spend a considerably time everyday on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Further, with the coming of smartphones it has become much easier for them to keep in touch with their friends etc. Hence, the impact and influence of social media is the most on the buying behavior of young consumer. This makes it much more important for companies whose target market is young people to get on the social media bandwagon and interact with its customers through various channels like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs etc. This two-way interaction will be beneficial to both the customer as well as the company.
If there’s one constant in social media, its change. Social media is rapidly changing and evolving with more and more people around the world joining the social media bandwagon. Further, the social media influences and impacts the two stages in the decision making process of a customer. These stages are “Alternatives Search” and “Alternative Evaluation”. Before buying a product, buyers now search on the internet for the same so as to read the reviews and opinions of the other people. This is especially common among the young generation as they are the most active users on the social networks. Hence, the companies need to interact with its customers through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter etc. to effectively market their products to the target audience.
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