Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Social Media, Consumer Behavior and Brand Loyalty

Marketers have failed to look at the impact of "advocates" on Social Media. Viral Campaigns are "NOT" the only revolutionary part of social media. We need to look again into the traditional funnel approach and its difference from the new funnel.

Social Media has impacted the consumer purchase process in a big way. The traditional consumer buying process included information search, consideration of brands (many brands), evaluation of brands (Few brands) and final choice. It is also popularly called as the "funnel" model, where the consumer searches for a variety of brands and makes a consideration set depending on his or her needs. These lead to the final choice of brand after evaluation of alternatives. The problem with the funnel approach is that it no longer holds good, especially with majority of consumers of a brand spending time on social media. Marketers have failed to realize this. Moreover since Social Media is the buzz word today, many marketers are using it just for heck of it. This is resulting in many people questioning the effectiveness of social media for businesses.

Social Media does not mean Viral Campaigns

Viral Campaigns are "NOT" the only revolutionary part of social media, but somehow due to its glamorous nature, the word "Viral" has dominated the marketer's landscape of social media. The probability of success of a viral campaign is low since a consumer's time on social media is limited. If one campaign goes viral, it does not mean a thousand others will also go viral. P&G's success in their old spice campaign is not because of a great campaign, but because of the news surrounding their increase in expenditure on social media.

The NEW Consumer Decision Making Process and Advocacy

The new consumer decision process has changed and the traditional funnel model is no longer valid. The "Funnel" has changed. Today a loyal consumer has the power of "Advocacy". The consumer actively talks and listens to other loyal consumers and moves back and forth the funnel. So after forming a consideration set, the consumer "listens" to the loyal advocate of the brand. It may change the consideration set of the consumer and narrow him or her to one or two brands. These advocates direct the undecided consumer through the funnel to the point of purchase. Finally the effectiveness of the sales person decides the choice of brand. A brand loyal consumer eventually turns into an advocate and this process goes on. Marketers have to focus on existing advocates because they are the ones who can create the "ripple effect" on social media. This ripple is not a "viral" campaign but a ripple of first time buyers turning into loyal consumers.