Social Influence and Customer Behavior – 4 Ways Social Impacts Local Businesses

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The percentage of social users keeps increasing exponentially each year. For many, social is now just a way of life. Beyond the obvious social angle, social media is increasingly becoming a platform for users to interact with brands and make purchasing decisions. Social plays a major role in shaping consumer behavior.

Given the all invasive nature of the social space, the emergence of social commerce was bound to pick up sooner than later. The space of social commerce was further cemented by the pandemic as users took to social platforms to not only engage with brands, but also communicate more intently with brands, and make direct purchases.

In light of these advances, it becomes increasingly important for brands to explore the different ways in which social influences consumer behavior.

Here are four ways in which social impacts consumer behavior and how in turn this impacts local businesses.

1. Reciprocity – Key to Enhanced Brand Engagement on Social 

Brand engagement happens in multiple ways, both online and offline. However, increasingly, consumers use social platforms to engage with brands. Here’s the thing though – on social media, brand engagement is a two-way street. Your customers expect meaningful brand interactions that add value to their lives and address their specific needs.

So you cannot look at social media simply as a space for selling your brand products and services. It’s also a place where customers gauge your brand’s values, keep pace with new offerings and announcements, buy from you, and while they are doing all of these things, they are also assessing how you interact with your customers and audience. Brands that come across as sincere and authentic in their efforts are the ones that score over their competitors.

Brands can use social platforms to listen more and be proactive in how they interact and engage with their social audiences.

Few things you can do;

  • Create and share relevant content.
  • Identify and analyze the latest trends.
  • Ask questions via simple Q & A or organize polls.
  • Actively share and respond to posts.
  • Respond to queries and discuss relevant issues.

Things you can do on Social to Drive Brand Engagement

Gain insight into what your social audience expects from your brand by looking at the way they engage and interact with your brand.

Track audience conversations – What do they like about your brand? Is there something that frustrates customers or is there something that they are critical about? What kind of content do they share actively? What kind of questions they are asking?

Once you have this information, you can then use it to personalize brand experiences. This can help you deliver on customer expectations and add a greater degree of authenticity to your overall brand image.


2. Customers want to Buy Directly over Social Media Platforms

Social medial sites have been one of the leading destinations for customers to find out more about a brand that they want to engage with or buy from for the last few years. However, off-late, customers are increasingly turning towards social to make purchases.

In fact, in 2020, there were 79 million social buyers in the US. By 2025, this number is expected to grow to 108 million. (Statista). Here’s another interesting statistic – by 2023, 71% of small businesses say that they plan to sell directly on social. (Statista).

So what’s fueling the popularity of social sites as a top destination for making purchases?

Well, for one, social media is one space that meets potential customers where they already are – social sites have become a routine aspect of most people’s lives.

For this reason, social sites are now focusing on enabling robust commerce capabilities to add a greater layer of convenience for customers. Doing this will also present businesses with additional streams of revenue.

What does this mean for your business?

Even if you are not ready to go the social commerce way, you may want the social commerce functionalities that are available on social sites that your customers frequent. There are a variety of ways you can connect with customers who are primed for conversion – in this case, to make a purchase. For example, you already have Instagram shopping and YouTube Livestream shopping. These are good places to start.

3. Social Media Reviews are Powerful

A majority of Gen Y’s and Gen Z’s already consider social sites a better alternative to brand discovery over online searches. And social reviews are a major aspect of that discovery cycle.

Potential customers actively scout for reviews on social sites and use them to make purchasing decisions. A negative review or a few dissatisfied customers can easily influence buying decisions. A positive review on the other hand is a precious customer endorsement, social proof, of what your brand is doing right.

What social reviews can do for your business?

Just like online reviews, social reviews can help establish brand credibility for your business. You can use the reviews you receive to understand that sentiment about your brand – evaluate what people are praising and what is not meeting their expectations. Use this insight to improve your brand offering.

You can of course go to town with all your positive reviews and build a strong social brand reputation. Remember, this has a cascading effect and it will impact not just your brand reputation but also how customers engage with your brand and their buying decisions. At the same time, you will want to quickly and effectively deal with negative reviews since, on social media, things are extremely fluid. So you have to be on your toes at all times and monitor every review or mention of your brand carefully.

4. Social is Driving Customer Service Expectations

Talking to a customer service rep or email, or a visit in person where the customer service options available up until very recently. Now social makes customer service instant.

All those long wait times belong to the past era – today most social users expect brands to respond to them within 24 hours on social. And because connecting with customers over social can happen so quickly, it is a great opportunity for brands to engage with their customers.

How can you Leverage this opportunity for your Local Business?

  • Start by making it easy for customers to quickly find you;
  • Include relevant contact info on all your sites.
  • Monitor your social sites, or even use a chatbot if possible.
  • Ensure you respond to all customer queries quickly and efficiently.
  • Set up an efficient process to approve responses to common customer queries.
  • You might also want to consider a tool to centralize inbound support messages from different social media sites.

The Social Churn

Social media has added a very convenient layer of interaction and engagement between brands and customers. However, social is in a state of constant churn – a churn that is being fueled by changing customer expectations.

As a local business, you must be present in the moment that potential customers want you and in the space that is convenient to them. Social media is that space. You can engage with potential customers, pick up on what they want and their expectations, and address their grievances quickly. Social also provides you with a great opportunity to diversify your revenue stream.

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