How Do Customers Find Your Business: Search Or Social?

If you run a small business, here’s a question for you?

Which marketing method do your customers use to find you: search or social? Now obviously the answer is wholly dependent on your own particular preferences and experiences, but generally speaking you’ll find that business owners tend to favour one strategy or the other: some are staunch advocates of traditional search, whilst other are sold on social. Yet research from the good old US of A has clearly shown that customers prefer to use the combined forces of search and social media to inform their purchases.

A joint study by GroupM and comScore confirmed that American consumers didn’t have such a black and white view when it came to marketing.

They much preferred the pick-and-mix approach. Now many people would probably think that the conclusion was pretty obvious, after all it’s just basic common sense at the end of the day: we all want to make informed choices, and will therefore carry out all the necessary research – search and social, before we’ll put our hands in our pockets. So if the conclusion is so obvious, what makes this particular study interesting? What gives it value? Well, it’s the simple fact that for once someone has gone to the trouble of putting some statistical flesh on the bones.

The landscape has changed over the last 8 years or so with the advent of the social media. There was a time when you could guarantee that any potential customer would always start their purchase research by going through a search engine. With the advent of social media marketing, that assumption is no longer automatic. Yet, surprisingly, the study found that search engines were still the consumers’ preferred option when making any sort of purchase decision: 60% of those polled always turned to sites like Google and Bing before deciding to buy, whilst a further 24% choose to visit company websites. Interestingly, only 18% of customers used social media as their first port of call.

What has changed are the numbers of consumers who use the social media for carrying out secondary research before buying. 40% of the people who went through search engines will then undertake further research using sites like Facebook, Twitter and youTube. Social plays a crucial role in making customers aware of new brands and products, and it also helps them eliminate the products and services that do not have glowing reputations. The recommendations and opinions of other social media users play a vital role in determining whether a purchase is actually made. Unfortunately, the research comes with a sting in the tail. The study also found that 46 percent of American consumers actually preferred to do their research the other way round, opting to start with social media research before progressing on to search engines.

So what’s the moral of the story? Which is the better marketing strategy for businesses?

Well, it’s now an unquestionable fact that search and social are inextricably linked. You could almost go so far as to say that they are conjoined at the hip. Both now play a significant part of informing every consumer purchasing decision. The moral, if there is one, is this: any business that opts to put all its eggs in just the one basket, runs the risk of missing out on a significant part of the market. Every company should ideally be using both of these marketing channels to reach the broadest possible audience.

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