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June 26, 2014

Social Media Under Fire

By Karen J. Bannan

Americans are skeptical when it comes to marketing materials that they see or read on social media, according to a June 23 Gallup report.

Almost two out of three (62%) of people surveyed for the report, State of the American Consumer, say the things they see posted on Facebook and Twitter, among other social media venues, don’t influence their buying habits. A smaller group – 30 percent – say that social media has “some influence” while five percent cite social media as wielding “a great deal of influence” on their purchasing decisions.

There are some differences generationally, though. Seven percent of those who fall into the Millennial and Generation X categories say that social media exerts a great deal of influence on their purchasing choices. More than half of respondents in those groups – 48 and 57 percent, respectively – say it has no influence at all on buying habits. Meanwhile, 68 and 75 percent of Baby Boomers and so-called Traditionalists (those born 1922 to 1945) say social media has no influence at all. Overwhelmingly, 94 percent of all respondents say they use social media to connect with friends and family. Another 53 percent say it is useful for sharing information with others, while 40 percent say it is useful for finding out information about a company or organization.

So what does this mean for corporate America? Another salient fact that came out of the report was that consumers who are engaging with companies on social media already have a relationship with those organizations. According to Gallup, “Consumers appreciate the highly personal and conversational nature of social media sites, and they prefer interacting in an open dialogue as opposed to receiving a hard sell. And companies’ use of social media to provide timely responses to questions and complaints accelerates brand loyalty and, eventually, sales. When it comes to social media efforts, businesses stand to benefit when they utilize a more service-focused approach rather than one dedicated to simply pushing their products.”

Companies that acknowledge and plan for this interest and interaction can improve loyalty. The use of social business coupled with CRM programs can help them do this well. When you can provide your employees with the most up-to-date information about your products and your customers, they can provide better service, innovate new products and upsell consumers in a way that makes sense.

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