What Your Customers Aren't Telling You In Social Media

The emergence of social media has greatly changed social behavior. Instead of pulling the manager of a restaurant aside after a bad meal, people now write one-star reviews on Yelp; instead of asking a friend a question in person, people now outsource their queries to Quora; and instead of providing feedback on a product or experience, people are turning to Facebook and Twitter to divulge what's on their minds.

Social media has also changed the face of marketing forever, but capturing the "conversation" isn't quite the Holy Grail of consumer intelligence. Discovering the motivations on "why" consumers "like" you on Facebook, tweet about your brand or forward information about your products to friends is what marketers should be striving to understand. Simply put, marketing needs to be driven by the connections that brands establish with consumers. These connections aren't the physical interactions that occur between consumers and their brands, nor are they the likes and dislikes about product features, or even the so-called "levels of engagement" used to observe and frame online behavior.



Building a brighter future. Fitting in with co-workers. Becoming a more interesting person. Consumer connection occurs when an individual consumer emotionally "connects" with your brand as a means to realize these ends. Combined with the right rational messages about your brand and its products, consumers can connect to your brand beyond the Web 2.0 level. These valuable connections drive steep increases in purchase, loyalty and advocacy, which is what every brand tries to achieve.

Connection. The Missing Link

Unfortunately, what's measured by social media as well as traditional market research largely misses the upside of consumer connection. And without tangible, data-driven intelligence on connection, marketers and their agencies will be more reluctant to go out on a limb to recommend emotionally driven creative ideas.

For example, satisfaction has been a measure of customer loyalty for decades, but it alone doesn't explain why a customer becomes a brand advocate. Nor does it really address what may attract a prospective customer to the brand in the first place. New consumer connection data from Motista illustrates this.

We recently analyzed the levels of connection for social media moms and non-social media moms in two disparate categories: banking and eReaders. We looked beyond what moms were saying in social media to focus on what was truly motivating them to advocate for their eReader or bank. We found that moms who feel emotionally connected to their eReaders and banks are far more likely to advocate for their brands in social media, recommend their brands directly to friends, be more loyal and purchase additional products.

While connected and non-connected moms both give their brands almost identical scores on satisfaction, features and quality, connected eReader moms are significantly more likely to feel that their eReader brand helps them be closer to loved ones, express who they want to be and fit in with friends. The same kind of emotional connection was revealed in the banking study with all segments and categories across the spectrum.

Can't You Draw the Same Conclusions about Connection from Social Media?

A lot has been riding on social media and sentiment analysis to derive insight into consumers, because knowing what consumers are saying about your products is, of course, important. However, consumers do not readily reveal their true and personal motivations in this forum.

People do not always admit how a product really makes them feel about life or themselves, and unconscious motivations that lie beneath the surface just don't come across naturally in social media conversation. A consumer may tweet: "I love my new white iPhone 4," but they may not divulge that the reason behind the purchase was because it made them feel cool and hip.

Facebook may be a great way for people to express themselves and share "what's on your mind?" However, marketers working on campaigns need to know what's in the consumer's heart -- what's really motivating them to act in the first place? This deeper "why" is how marketers can put a real jolt into their marketing results and take full advantage of social media's power.

5 comments about "What Your Customers Aren't Telling You In Social Media ".
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  1. Ellie Becker from E.R. Becker Company, Inc., May 26, 2011 at 9:31 a.m.

    Nice to see someone jump off the social media bandwagon to do some analysis of what level of consumer intelligence it really gains. I understand the skillful techniques a qualitative research client of mine has to use to get a roomful of moms to connect with and reveal their underlying emotions about products. It makes a great deal of sense that they're not revealing these emotions on social media and that marketers still need to use other methods to get to these critical insights and measures.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 26, 2011 at 11:32 a.m.

    That's disgusting. This does not encourage conversation and communication. It's hiding behind a closed door and making us lazy. If you have a problem with a restaurant, go speak with someone about the problem. You may be surprised how well it could be fixed. Just to be heard, not so much read, you could ruin a person's life and a business. Now, that you have expressed a dissatisfaction, you encourage others to jump on your bandwagon. Yes, it would be great if everyone was thoughtful and went to the z before badmouthing, then the complaints would warrent justification, but people have become less thoughtful because all of the blah blah. You talk about power. How about the abuse of power? Alan, this is not a commentary about your reporting; it's about the topic in the report.

  3. Alan Zorfas from Motista, May 26, 2011 at 4:54 p.m.

    Thanks, Ellie, for your comments. You obviously appreciate the time and effort required by your client to implement and complete research. The opportunity to apply connection intelligence across diverse marketing programs, as marketers work, will have tremendous impact on a brand's advertising and marketing effectiveness.

  4. Alan Zorfas from Motista, May 26, 2011 at 7 p.m.

    Paula – I agree that social media doesn’t tell us the motivations and connections behind why customers engage with and advocate on behalf of a brand. While social media is important, businesses shouldn’t change their strategy because a few people send a tweet expressing unhappiness. Brands need to start looking past what’s said in those forums to really understand what’s motivating customers.

  5. Lisa Riolo from Impact Radius, May 27, 2011 at 5:36 p.m.

    Yesterday, a good friend asked my advice about the how-to and benefits of "managing" social media. I'm not really an SMO "expert" I explained.

    "Maybe not, but you are a well-versed marketer and, more importantly you really understand what motivates customers."

    To which I then asked, "What makes you think social media gives you that insight?"

    She just assumed.

    Her instincts are right about what information she needs, but she needs to do more than count followers or read posts.

    My friend understands that her customers (and prospects) engage in social media to express themselves--but also understands that neither star ratings nor a thumbs up reveals the key information she needs to improve her marketing efforts.

    This article reinforces exactly that point. I am really intrigued to learn more about how marketers can be more effective leveraging consumer intelligence. It is the missing piece in my friend's (and I suspect many of our) marketing strategy.

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