CONSUMERS LET FINGERS DO THE WALKING
Posted by Robbyn Brooks
Social media, opinion leaders drive consumer purchases
Who do you listen to and about what? Think about the last time you purchased a vehicle, why did you choose that one? When it comes to movies, do you base your picks on reviews by professionals or friends? Do you buy your clothes because you saw a celeb rocking an outfit? And, do you have at least one obscure band that is on your playlist? How did you find them?
The truth is, we are influenced everywhere we turn through different layers of opinion leaders in our lives – those are the people we trust, for whatever reason, to give us decent advice on the things we need and want. Back in the early years of opinion leaders, those people were mostly government officials, industry experts, celebrities and anyone else who broadcast and newspaper journalists thought were worthy of inclusion in coverage and reviews.
Now, anyone with a smartphone or tablet can be an opinion leader with a little bit of work. Upload enough interesting content to YouTube, tweet enough in 140 characters and gather Facebook friends through creative methods and you, too, can be an opinion leader. Enough followers through social media means that those account holders reach those followers. It first may be through witty content, and after the user is in favor with followers, those followers begin to trust the account holder for other things.
Want to be an opinion leader? The Wall Street Journal has a few tips on how to use social media to strengthen your leadership skills.
First tip: Stop looking at social media as another thing you have to learn and realize the outlet can help you reach new ideas and a wider audience. Next up, embrace those 140 characters that Twitter has to offer. Twitter is a great way to get out key ideas to a large group of people without burdening them with one more email or phone call. Tweets are short and sweet, millions of Tweeps agree, that’s the way they like their messages. Also, consider joining in some social circles online. Reading what like-minded leaders have to say will give you ideas and also boost credibility through association. Finally, the WSJ says social media can be used to “amplify your voice.” If the thought of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking on top of everyday tasks is daunting, just realize that you can repurpose info you are already sending out. For instance, if you would normally email a link to a new blog or a new idea – Tweet it, post it to Facebook or create a short YouTube video blog to appeal to the masses.
If you aren’t convinced that crossing the digital divide is a great way to influence the crowd, consider this information from a company called Deliotte Digital. Deliotte polled about 2,500 consumers to find out about their purchasing habits and found that smartphones influence 5.1 percent of annual retail sales totaling about $160 billion in projected revenue for 2012.The company took a look at what they call “mobile influence factor,” or the impact of smartphone use on in-store sales.
Deliotte reported that six of 10 smartphone users said they pulled out their phones in store to read reviews and do price comparison and more than half go ahead and use their phones on the way to a shopping excursion. Seventy-two percent of shoppers said they make same-day purchases because of the information and reviews they are privy to via smartphone connectivity while they are shopping.
Deliotte predicts that by 2016, the mobile influence factor will grow to 19 percent to make up $689 billion in sales.
So what’s the best way for opinion leaders to reach an audience? According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs are the way to go. Technorati’s report found that blogs are now the third most influential digital resource for people looking to make purchases. Blogs represent a 31 percent influence, only behind retail sites at 56 percent and brand sites at 34 percent. Facebook comes in at almost 31 percent, YouTube at 27 percent, Pinterest at 12 percent, Twitter at eight percent and Instagram is at the bottom with only three percent.
Why blogs? Bloggers, Technorati said, are usually “honest and sincere” in their reviews of products and consumers tend to believe that the smaller blog community is more trustworthy than the brand overridden Facebook. Blogs offer a space for an exchange of ideas and true community growth.
Let’s flip the switch for a bit. We’ve talked about how opinion leaders can get their messages across in the best possible way. But, as a marketing professional for a brand, who should you target? The general public? Business News Daily suggests that the best way a business can get the most out of using social media is to target opinion leaders who will then pass the message along to their followers and contacts with the perceived credibility of the opinion leader. Business News Daily acknowledges that “it’s a different way of thinking” to move away from believing that reaching the most people possible is the best way to get a message across. Instead, BND suggests that targeting the right folks is the best move.
“People are being more judicious in spending their marketing money, and we found out that money spent to reach out to a large audience would be spent focusing on well-connected, influential members of a social network – such as opinion leaders on blogs, industry leaders, and so on,” said John Bohlmann to BND. Bohlmann is a professor of marketing at North Carolina State University.
Bohlmann suggests using technology to track which blogs, tweets and other media users are resonating with consumers and reach out to them. But, he warns, attempts to connect with opinion leaders can’t be half-hearted or sugar coated.
“You can’t fake your way into social media or it will backfire,” Bohlmann said. “You have to be genuine and responsive to customers.”
Who are some of the opinion leaders you look to, or do you consider yourself one? I find that at least half of the users I follow on Twitter I consider to be opinion leaders. Maybe 25 percent of my Facebook friends have an influence over a decision I might make at any given time. And, I only follow blogs of people I consider opinion leaders. It’s interesting, and telling, to take a look over your social media list and realize the connection.