In a previous blog, I looked at the impact that us Tweeters and Facebookers have on brands. It seems that anyone with a social media account can now generate earned media, as so many of us post approval or disapproval of brands online. The Huffington Post reports that in 1994 there were seven touch-points before a prospect is converted into a sale. This means that customers had to be exposed to a brand seven times before buying something. Fast forward to 2014, and it took up to 20 touch-points. It’s probably safe to say that social media, and the web in general, has extended our process to make a purchase.
We’ve all consulted the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Tripadvisor to get an idea of how decent a product or service is. There are now considerably more check points before we commit to a purchase. But interestingly, the Huffington Post article also tells us that recommendations by friends and family are ones that we trust the most. This could mean that online review sites are being side-lined in favour of what our online ‘friends’ are saying. My guess is that people are getting savvier on how to source reliable reviews online, and social media is up there as a good go-to.
But social media must be careful that it’s not becoming just an online platform for brands to advertise. There’s no escaping the promoted tweets that makes Twitter commercialised. News came recently that Twitter will soon sell promoted tweets to third party websites, meaning that we’ll see promoted tweets on sites like Yahoo. The commercialisation of Twitter is spreading across the web, which might not be worthwhile if we’re more affected by earned media than paid media when we’re online.
As a B2B PR agency, we always keep an eye on how brands communicate over social media. Now that the public has a better understanding of what media to trust online, is paid media really an ideal way for brands to communicate?
Alex Brown has just started his career at Skout PR and will be a regular contributor to the Skout blog.