In communications, the credibility of the source is a vital element in message persuasiveness. In the realm of digital communications, consumers have embraced several different ways to share, broadcast, and discuss their opinions about virtually any product or service. Blogs and websites like yelp.com and angieslist.com, along with social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest increasingly have become tools that consumers utilize when consulting reference groups and making buying decisions. What impact do these social networks have on consumer behavior?
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Certainly, such sites as Angie's List and others such as the comment sections that cruise lines have on their web sites can be damaging. As an example, there is a couple (whom I know personally) who were all set to board on a cruise when they received a phone call bearing the tragic news of the death of a family member. Of course, they did not go on that cruise. However, when they later requested a refund or an exchange, the company refused. It was only when they threatened to promulgate the heartlessness of this company via the Internet that they were offered an alternate cruise.
Currently there are advertisements on the radio and elsewhere which appeal to businesses that have received negative feedback and comments on the social media which have hurt them financially. One particular company promises to "clean up" the image of the company and mitigate damage from negative comments proffering certain techniques that it has.
For researchers into consumer behavior, the internet has opened up new opportunities. It has also opened a new realm to which attention must be paid. When examining the different stages of consumer behavior and their interactions with products and services, the internet has become a significant domain where intense activity regarding consumer behavior can be seen. For example, the consumer behavior of searching for information is rampant throughout the web. The internet has transformed the research capacity of the consumer:"This information isn’t limited to what your company alone puts out there, because many sites within a social media network are devoted to consumer-collected information. The increased availability has changed the common consumer into a researcher." In many respects, the consumer has more information available to them. Marketers and researchers are finding this reality dramatically impacting consumer behavior. Product placement has to be targeted in a specific manner to address this aspect of social networking through the internet's impact on consumer behavior.
For years, attitude formation and identification were critical to cultivate. Yet, the reality of the internet is that this cultivation is now taking place with or without direct guidance from marketers or researchers. Companies must be savvy to navigate this and guide it for their own benefit. This reflects another significant impact on consumer behavior from the internet. Social networks and the "buzz" on specific social networks about specific products indicate much regarding consumer behavior. Marketers of specific products and services have recognized the need to develop a "virtual" home to accommodate for this behavior, generating more interest in their product or service:
Welcoming them to the site allows for free communication. On the consumer end, however, that freedom means that a person can now voice his or her opinion about your product or company in a semi-public setting where numerous people can read or see it. Although this works to your company's benefit if the opinion is favorable, an unfavorable remark potentially could drive away business.
Negative perception or "buzz" can be rampant on the internet. The poster has the ability to transfer the comment in different realms and different sites. This means that researchers and marketers have to be mindful of what is being said about the product and respond to it quickly and effectively. Sometimes, this comes in the form of redirecting the conversation towards a more positive aspect of the product. The 24-7 element of the web and of social networking creates a greater demand for accountability on the part of researchers and marketers.
It is in this condition where a new aspect of consumer behavior is revealed and where traditional paradigms of understanding consumer behavior have to be augmented. There has to be a section of product marketing devoted to social media and placing the product in social network mediums. As more people are spending more time on social networks, consumer behavior is being largely defined by it. Failing to pay attention to it closes off a significant marketing reach and reduces the marketing success of a product. The process of introducing a product, generating support for it, and continually reengaging a target audience with this product is something that demands a greater understanding of social networks on the web.
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