Earlier this week, Gallup released a report called The State of the American Consumer. People went nuts over this report – especially the bit where 62% of consumers don’t believe social media influences their purchasing decisions. If you’re a business owner using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google + to market your business, you really don’t want to hear that nearly 2 out of 3 people don’t believe the messaging they encounter on social media sways their opinions or drives sales.
Well, you can relax. After the first rush of panic, people are taking a more critical look at Gallup’s numbers. The fact that the study is based on data that’s two years old is problematic. In social media, two years is an eternity: numbers that are twenty-four months old aren’t really relevant anymore.
The second issue has to do with how reliable people are when it comes to identifying what influences their purchasing decisions. Word of mouth marketing experts have been butting their heads up against this challenge for years. Many pride themselves on being rational people who make decisions based on logic and objectively observable criteria, but in point of fact, the recommendations of friends and wholly subjective emotional experiences are far more influential forces.
The fact that people don’t believe social media is influencing their thinking doesn’t mean social media has no influence. Belief does not create reality. National Geographic found that 77% of Americans believe the government is keeping secrets about aliens from us. That does not mean that there’s a secret military base full of little green men out there somewhere.
Social media is nothing more – and nothing less – than a platform for conversations.
We’ve referred to it as word of mouth on steroids, and that truly is what it is. When your customer loves your products and shares their opinion with all of their friends, it adds your brand to an ongoing conversation that in its entirety shapes the public’s experience. This can and does drive sales. Gallup usually does good work, but this time – they got it wrong.