The New Customer Journey: Understanding and Engaging With Your Social-Savvy Customers

The modern customer journey begins with self-evaluation, and this customer “self education” begins with social.

If you build it, they will come.

Consumers continue to seek out and engage with social networks—from Facebook and Snapchat to Tumblr and Instagram. When you consider that the average user spends 1.72 hours per day on social platforms, it makes sense to examine which consumers are spending time on which networks—and how they are spending their “digital” time.

More specifically, what can marketers learn about consumer behavior toward specific brands based on social media activity on various networks? Do consumers start on one network in the beginning of their purchase journey and then shift to another? How can marketers best meet consumers where they are to serve them the right information at the right time to guide them toward a purchase?

The Destruction of the Marketing Funnel

If we take a closer look at the traditional marketing funnel, we see that a sale is determined by how a consumer enters the funnel, when they enter the funnel and what actions they take while in the funnel. Traditionally, the marketing funnel illustrates the customer journey from initial product awareness through to point of purchase. Today, with more people spending more time online, consumers are making purchasing decisions further up the funnel. Consumers are researching brands and products themselves and continuously providing real-time feedback via social.

Understanding the Customer’s Journey 

The modern customer journey begins with self-evaluation, and this customer “self education” begins with social. It has been estimated that 57 percent of the buying process is complete before “sales” is contacted. Think about a consumer going into a retail store in the mall to purchase a phone. While the sales representative will try and push the consumer to purchase a particular product, the customer—before entering the store—has already done his or her homework. He or she has researched the brand on social, read product reviews, compared prices and more.

The first—and most important question—to understand in the customer journey: What social networks are target consumers spending their time on? Smart marketers know they need to be on the networks that their customers are on. Here are four social networks that are changing the consumer social landscape:

Facebook

Facebook boasts 1.59 billion monthly active users; clearly, many potential customers are spending much of their digital time on Facebook. In fact, people are spending so much time posting and liking photos to the social networking platform that in February, Facebook unveiled its augmented Like button, “Reactions.” Now, users have the option to “react” to a post, choosing from “like,” “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” or “angry.” The icons of the most popular Reactions will now display under each post.

When it comes to deriving actionable information from Facebook, marketers have a couple of options. Facebook Atlas, for example, allows consumers to establish their identity through opt-in/log-in, accounting for consumer cross-device and cross-channel activity. Marketers, with Atlas, can measure their campaigns across screens, targeting consumers from mobile to desktop (and back).

Meanwhile, DataSift’s partnership with Facebook, for anonymous and aggregated Facebook topic data, shows marketers what audiences are saying on Facebook about particular brands – all in a way that keeps personal information private. Marketers can use this anonymized and aggregated data to spot trends, patterns and insights; in other words, marketers get a holistic view of their target audience.

Snapchat

While Facebook is often considered the “traditional” social leader, Snapchat is where many newer, younger consumers are spending their time. In fact, 400 million messages are received on Snapchat every day and the application has about 30 million monthly active users. The video messaging application allows users to take and send photos and videos, or “snaps,” sending them to recipients for anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds.

Compared to Facebook, Snapchat is still in the “wild west” phase. Despite its relative “new kid on the block” status, Snapchat has a huge user base. Unlike Facebook (which allows marketers to glean user insights), Snapchat makes it difficult for marketers to analyze interactions. A marketer can send a snap about a brand, a consumer views the snap … So then what? Snapchat does not have significant third party analytics tools that can measure content performance, meaning marketers need to analyze data manually (number of people who opened snap, number of people who took a screenshot of specific content, number of people who responded with a direct message). Marketers can then document their “open rate,” or the number of snaps sent, received and opened to assess consumer engagement.

Tumblr  

Meanwhile, Tumblr is another social networking platform gaining momentum. The microblogging site, which allows users to post multimedia content in a short-form blog format, hosts more than 105 million blogs and 49 billion posts—and its traffic is growing at a rate of 74 percent a year. For brands to best capitalize on Tumblr’s marketing reach, marketers need to create a strategic plan, including identifying their target audience and learning the “culture” of the site. This culture includes different communities with their own languages, terms and domain names. Tumblr is designed for share-worthy content; funny posts or informational images can be shared to maximize reach. Marketers can examine the engagement of their posts, track their follower growth and identify their brand’s influencers.

HBO’s Game of Thrones, for example, has used Tumblr to engage with viewers via a “fan creations” page. Viewers are invited to post on the show’s Tumblr page, from creative photos and GIFs to video clips that respond to a particular character or storyline. HBO can then use viewer contributions to promote the show on other social media outlets. 

Instagram

Another ever-expanding social platform is Instagram, an online mobile photo and video-sharing service that allows users to take photos and videos and share them on the app as well as via other social networking platforms. The service was acquired by Facebook in 2012, and now boasts 400 million monthly active users. Instagram allows users to link and push posts to their other social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

Unlike other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram doesn’t differentiate between business and individual users – all accounts are the same. Instagram allots 150 characters in your profile for a quick blurb about your business. Marketers can also use brand hashtags to build their branding efforts. KitKat, for example, encourages users to use #haveabreak when sharing candy bar photos, creating a consistent brand across all social networks. Marketers can also use a link in their account bio to connect to a landing page that holds the same posts they place on Instagram. This allows them to source leads, collect entries for a giveaway, gain blog subscribers, etc.

Any savvy marketer knows that successfully engaging with consumers starts with finding where their target audience spends their digital time—and coming to them. The consumer is in control. Then, brands can “listen” to what their target customers are saying about specific product features, brand attributes or “wish list” items. Armed with a deeper understanding of their market, current customers and future customers, brands can then skillfully engage with their target audience on the customer’s social turf, building a reciprocal relationship in the process.

Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson is the vp of marketing at DataSift