According to Forrester Research, US marketers are projected to spend $16.2 billion in social media advertising by 2019. Brands are spending time and resources curating content, sharing and interacting with potential customers on social media channels, but are we truly harnessing the power of social and user-generated content to drive transactions?
Can pushing our customers to brand pages on social media be inadvertently driving customers away from the point of transaction? What about the stories that are being created and shared every day by users who are telling stories and sharing experiences about your brand?
Are we missing the real opportunity that social media has created for marketers?
In a session produced by eCornell in June, I explored how the marketing mix has shifted in the age of social media. Marketers have not truly unlocked the potential of social media, and specifically user-generated content (UGC) in driving brand awareness, engagement and ultimately transactions.
The time and resources that brands spend in creating Social Media posts, images, and contests can actually be directing customer’s off of the path-to-transaction.
Consider how many websites have a direct call-to-action, and link to “Visit us on Facebook” – taking customers off page to Instagram or Pinterest. Some of those outbound links are even right off of the website home page! In addition to spending marketing dollars on creating content for social media, why are we also driving hard earned website traffic off of the website to social media platforms that away from the website? Marketers are spending time and resources creating content for Instagram and Facebook that may not ever be seen by the customer. In fact, Facebook’s posts on brand pages often don’t even reach those that “Like” a brand page, buried in newsfeed and cluttered with Ad content.
How can marketers fix the broken path to purchase and truly harness the power of UGC and social media content? I suggest the following:
1. Aggregate social media content.
2. Tag and organize both brand generated social media, and UGC.
3. Make social stories available at multiple places along the customer path to purchase – and at the point of transaction.
4. Keep customers engaged with your brand though the path-to-purchase, and lead them towards transaction.
Think with Google advocates the importance of being available at all points along the customer path-to-conversion, noting the multiple consumer touch points along the road to transaction. Additional research from Deloitte points to the importance specifically of social media and UGC as a primary source for travel ideas, ranking second (33%) only to friends and family (50%).
There is no question that user-generated and brand-generated social content bring value to the customer relationship, and build brand awareness, but ultimately sales and marketing efforts should encourage a measurable transaction, and metrics that illustrate success.
Increased”Likes” and “Comments” are not enough, especially now with Google’s increased focus on “Social Signals” in indexing websites. Without measuring how social content contributes to the customer path-to-purchase, and ultimately translates to sales, marketers a missing a powerful piece of the marketing mix.
Harnessing the power of Social and UGC (consumer reviews, fan photos and experiences, Likes, Shares) means integrating powerful social content into places along the consumer journey to purchase. This might be the key to unlocking the the real value of social and UGC.
For more on this, watch the recap of the eCornell webinar here. I will also be exploring this topic further in September at the Travel and Tourism Research Association Conference in Niagara Falls, Canada – with a specific focus on how injecting social and UGC into the marketing funnel can impact consumer engagement and buying behaviour.