Influence, Incentives, Investment: Elements of the Consumer Experience on Social Media
Ever wonder what influences consumer activity -- your friends’ posts or the companies you follow on social media? As it turns out, they are both almost equally influential -- or so says a new study by Market Force.

A New Kind of Influence

The study found that 81% of U.S. consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts, while a comparable 78% are influenced by vendors’ posts, suggesting that company-driven social media content is surprisingly powerful in driving purchase decisions.

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Graph 1: Influence of Friends’ and Companies’ Social Media Posts

More than 12,000 consumers were surveyed by Market Force, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions, in an effort to help better understand how individuals interact with retail, restaurant, travel, entertainment and financial businesses on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ in both North America and Europe.

American Consumers Dominate Social Media
 


In the U.S., consumers are more likely to be immersed in social media, with 95% of U.S. consumers indicating that they have a Facebook account and 62% that they have a Twitter account. As well, all of the U.S. consumers surveyed said that they use some form of social media, compared to 14% of UK consumers who said that they do not use social media at all.

For those who do use social media, it’s in an effort to collect information and opinions about restaurants, retailers and other companies from their online networks. In the United States, 60% said they gather insights on companies from their friends’ social media posts. In the UK, about half said they do. Additionally, social media users use the platforms to post information about their experiences with businesses -- with one in 10 having posted something negative. 
 


They Like You (& Your Discounts)

For companies that may use incentives in their social media activity -- it’s working. Of the 75% of U.S. consumers and 65% of UK consumers who regularly “like” a company’s Facebook page or the 46% who follow them on Twitter, a majority do so to take advantage of incentives or discounts provided in return. 


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Graph 2: Why U.S. Consumers “Like” a Company’s Facebook Page

American consumers “like” restaurant pages (86%) on Facebook more than any other category, with entertainment second-most popular (76%) and retail ranking third (75%). Meanwhile, UK consumers are more prone to “like” entertainment business pages (76%), followed by retail (73%) and then restaurant pages (71%).

On Twitter, entertainment-oriented businesses are the most followed. 81% of U.S. and UK consumers indicated that they follow companies in that category, followed by 65% who follow retail companies and 53% who follow restaurants.

A Real Opportunity for Companies 

Of course, while this study sheds some light on what consumers like and the motives behind their social media activity, what’s most important is that companies recognize the massive opportunity in front of them. With a majority of U.S. and UK consumers voluntarily following companies online, it’s time for local and global businesses to connect with their patrons and prospective customers.

Regardless of what they are saying, businesses need to listen and use the feedback to improve the customer experience, whether it’s online or in person. Customers have a lot of choices when it comes to where to shop, what to buy and by whom they choose to be influenced. In return, companies have a responsibility to deliver the best customer experience to improve the likelihood that customers not only come back, but influence others about their experience.