Does social media actually affect consumer choices

by Zoe K

We’re more connected than ever before. And, obviously, one of the ways we are strongly connected is through social media.


And it’s not just our friends and family that we connect with. Brands from all types of industries have jumped onto these platforms. Why? Because social media is an amazing way for brands and consumers to communicate with one another.


Due to the ability to communicate directly with consumers, brands are heavily investing in social media. But, does this amount of investment actually have an impact on consumer choices?


What does the data say?:


•  Deloitte reports that consumers that see brands’ social media posts are four times more likely to make a purchase

•  A study by Influencer Marketing Hub identifies that nearly 50% of Twitter users made a purchase as a result of a Tweet from an influencer

•  Forbes reports that an amazing 81% of people had made a purchase as a result of an online recommendation from friends or family on social media

•  The same report highlights that 78% of people had made a purchase as a result of a social media post from a brand

•  84% of people say that user-generated content from strangers has in some way influenced how they spend their money



So, does social media affect consumer choices…?


Hopefully, the answer is obvious. If it’s not – yes. Yes, it does.


But that’s not all. Understanding that consumers are affected by social media is just the start.


To make the most of social media, brands need to have an understanding of how social media affects consumer choices before they create content


In all, there are 4 main ways that social media impacts consumer choice.


Brand Awareness


A Nielsen study shows that 59% of people prefer to purchase from brands that they are familiar with.


In fact, this is something we see on the websites we create too. Returning visitors, those that already have engaged and are aware of the brand, typically have a 40% higher chance of converting than new users.


So, brands need to inspire confidence and quality in a consumer before they’re likely to purchase. Brands need to create content that increases recognition and familiarity with the audience.


Social Proof


Us humans are social animals. We take our cues from those around us. If we see other people trust and accept something – be it a product, service or even an idea – then we are more likely to be accepting of it ourselves.


When a consumer is looking to purchase something, they seek out other people’s experience with it. And that, in turn, can impact decisions.


54% of people will research a brand’s social media profiles when researching a product. Therefore, it is extremely valuable for businesses to utilise social proof on their social media to help influence those researching.


Brands can utilise social proof by:

•  Posting reviews & testimonials to their feeds

•  Utilising User-Generated Content to show consumers with their products

•  Employ referral programs to encourage consumers to share their brand with friends & family


Promotions, discounts and deals


A shocking 64% of online shoppers will wait for a product to go on sale before they decide to purchase. As a result, online shoppers are happy to follow brands on social media and wait for when sales are announced.


This makes the use of promotions, discounts and deals incredibly powerful tools to influence consumer purchasing behaviour through social media.


With modern audience targeting, it is also possible to influence consumer purchasing decisions based on their previous behaviour. For example, say a section of a social media audience has shown an interest in a particular product through activity on the website. Using audience targeting, you can deliver remarketing adverts through social media that offer a discount specifically for those that have shown intent.


Equally, it is also possible to run discount ads aimed at consumers who have added items to their cart but did not checkout.


But you don’t need to be limited to ads alone. Your organic social media feed can also be used to promote discounts and deals.


Social Media Influencers


It could be argued that the use of social media influencers is a natural evolution in social proof. And, to be honest, I can agree with that argument.


The premise sees brands utilise someone that is trusted within a community to give their opinion on a product or service.


Deloitte reported that 49% of people have been influenced to buy something based on a social media influencer.


But the actual figure could be as high as 80%. A study by Google found that 80% of shoppers tend to view YouTube videos of products that they are intending to buy. And, of course, YouTube is also a platform with its own eco-system of social influencers.


Therefore, working with social media influencers can be a valuable strategy because consumers are finding their influencers’ advice often inspires a purchase.


Social Media and the Buying Cycle


Understanding how social media affects consumer choices, and what type of social media posts can be used to influence choice, is only part of the story. What’s vital is to understand how social media fits into the overall buying cycle of a consumer.


Essentially, when do different types of social posts help affect consumer choice within a buying cycle?


Fortunately, there has been some research conducted into this previously. Deloitte identified 5 ways that social media plays a part in the buying cycle:


1 – Find Inspiration


This is the stage that a consumer starts to show an interest in a product or service. Interestingly, 70% of consumers start their buying journey outside of brand marketing activities. Instead, becoming aware through social media influencers, family & friends or traditional media.


For social media, brands should look at how they can reach their target audience outside of brand messages. For example, making use of social media influencers or paid social media adverts. However, content needs to focus on inspiring the audience rather than focusing on product sales.


2 – Browse and Research


At this stage of the buying cycle, consumers are trying to match their inspiration with a product or service.


It is at this point that consumers start to visit websites. Whilst they will not necessarily explore brand social media pages at this point, remarketing activities on social media can be utilised to keep their interest following their visit to a website.


3 – Select and Validate


Consumers begin to narrow down their selection at this point and start to validate their decision.


Here social media starts to play a part. They begin to view a brand’s social media pages. They seek out information such as reviews, even search on YouTube to view more detailed social media influencer accounts.


At this point, social media accounts want to be showing content such as reviews & testimonials or User Generated Content to help with their selection process.


4 – Purchase and Pay


After the consumer has conducted their research, they are in a position to purchase. At this point, they may start to seek out deals or promotions.


Brands can deliver these either through targeted adverts using paid means, or advertise discounts using organic social media posts.


5 – Return and Service


Post-sales also needs to be a  consideration for brands’ social media accounts. Research shows at least 29% of people begin their returns process using online methods, including social media.


This needs to be at the forefront of every brand’s mind. Why? Because consumers are likely to review social media accounts before making a purchase. If they see bad service being delivered, this could lead them to decide to shop elsewhere.


Because social media channels are a public arena, brands must be able to respond positively to consumer complaints and returns. Not only to give good service to the customer in question but for any future customers that may still be in the earlier stages of the buying cycle.




Ultimately social media does affect consumer choices. What’s important though is to understand how social media affects consumer choices and what cues they’re looking for.

Through understanding this, you can create content that helps consumers through their buying cycle journey.

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