Changing Consumers In The World Of Social Media – Views From Prabhakar

Who would have imagined ten years ago that people would be checking their social media profiles, soon after waking up. Even before they brush their teeth or sleepily make their way to the kitchen for their morning cuppa. But such is the impact of social media that it is changing our habits, behaviours and with that our attitudes. The consumer psyche is now going through a complete overhaul.

Social media is also affecting our lives in a variety of ways. While it would be impossible to enumerate all the things it’s changing, here are a few of the changes in which social media is affecting our lives.


Social Media and Shopping Behaviour

social media shopping

Take shopping habits for example. A few years ago people still largely went about their shopping needs in much the same way as they did a few decades ago. In many ways social media has now replaced word of mouth. So word of mouth has moved from the water cooler area to social media. If I want to buy something, it is so much easier to know what other people’s experiences of a brand are before you take a decision to buy. So much so that most consumers say social media posts by their friends influence purchasing decisions. And it’s not just our friends — posts by brands also influence a majority of consumers. Just as mobile can make it easier to shop in store, specific social media platforms have helped consumers expand their shopping cart.

Sociable Labs in an earlier study said social sharing has moved into “a mainstream activity” and noted that a majority of all online shoppers are reading product-related comments from friends on Facebook, with most of these shoppers clicking through to visit the retailer’s site (no Google search enters the process here). Further, social sharing drives conversions, with 53% of shoppers who click through to the retailer’s site buying the product that was shared. “Social Proofing” – showing friends activities on a website – significantly increases shopper confidence in buying on that website.


Social Media and Interpersonal Communication


So what happened to the world after mobile telephony and the Internet? Email, SMS, WhatsApp, and various other forms of verbal communication or texting as the main medium almost seem to have threatened to take away the human touch completely from one to one communication. You may argue that video is big, but I am talking about daily conversations of which text forms a large part.

The arrival of the emoticon however became our substitute for incorporating body language into text. You will notice that most expressive people tend to use the emoticon more than the less expressive people. So does the emoticon have the same effect as a real smile? Apparently yes. A study at Australia’s Flinders University found that the pattern of brain activity triggered by looking at an emoticon is fairly similar to when someone sees a real smiling human face. The like or the other buttons on Facebook, everything that we use to make our communication richer is actually substituting body language in one way or another in one to one communication where we use text as the main medium.


How Social Media has replaced Customer Service

social media customer service

If you think Social Media is a way to build a brand or company’s image for the Internet age you are mistaken. Often with customer service failing to be in touch with their customers, has meant that the burden of looking after irate customers has shifted to the Social Media team.

This is because typically the dissatisfied customer gets little or no attention when he has a problem, and then the only recourse he has is to slash the company in question by exposing them on Social Media and particularly Twitter.

Often, the first point of contact that the customer has with the company is not the Customer Service Department but the Social Media Team. The Social Media team is then forced to be the coordination point with other departments in the company, which include marketing, customer service, finance and others until the customer is satisfied.


Social Media and Romance

social media romance

You discover while prying on Facebook that your partner has just commented on a few of her ex’s photos and the ex has commented back a few times. Are they still flirting? Hope it is nothing more than just Facebook. You can’t help feeling jealous but how do you bring this up. After all you don’t want your partner to know that you have been secretly checking her FB page. You try to be a little stiff when you arrive home, but you are trying hard not to show that you may appear jealous or insecure.

Spying on your partner’s profile is known as Interpersonal Electronic Surveillance. If you are worried about how offensive that term sounds don’t worry. Its not as pathological as spying on your partner in the real world and following him to office and while he is having lunch with his female colleague. The top reasons people say they use Facebook is to keep in touch with people and of course monitor people and often enough their partners.

Social media is playing an increasingly important role in romantic relationships. City lives are quite disruptive and stressed out but getting into twitter fights may not really serve the purpose for a good romantic relationship. One research study found that Twitter use was associated with increased Twitter-related conflict and in turn led to infidelity, breakup and divorce. But it is difficult to know if the Twitter conflict is a result of the relationship going sour and then resulting in Twitter Conflict or is it vice versa? In other words this is a classic chicken and egg problem.


In Conclusion

It is difficult to believe that only a decade ago, social media was just a budding trend. Today most people are spending almost every waking hour connected to social media. And it has changed both our personal lives and the future of every business. In every era, cultures go through numerous changes and in recent years ours has been more impacted than anything else by social media. If used effectively it can give us a greater choice in how we live and how we work and what happens to our world.



About the Author:

Prabhakar Mundkur is an ad veteran with over 35 years of experience in Advertising and Marketing. He works as an independent consultant and is also Chief Mentor with Percept H. All previous posts of Prabhakar can be found here.