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Are Social Pressures Good or Bad For Your Business? Do You Know?

In last week’s blog, I discussed considerations to help you influence your customers' purchase intention. The blog was based on the Theory of Planned Behavior and its foundations for consumer decision-making. This week, I’d like to focus the conversation more specifically on the normative beliefs of the theory. As a reminder, normative beliefs describe the normative expectations of others. These beliefs are influenced by social norms or pressures and influence the control beliefs of consumers. When consumers feel that they have social support from others, their intention to act increases.

This is where social media plays a large factor in subjective norms. Marketers are always focused on delivering marketing programs to meet and satisfy the needs of their target customers. In order to be effective, a lot of research and analysis is completed to understand different customer segments and influence purchase decisions such as cultural, social, personal, and psychological. Per the Theory of Planned Behavior, social factors can influence an individual's perceived behavioral control over the situation which leads to increased or decreased intentions to act.

Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) is powerful in marketing and has the ability to help or hinder brands. In academic literature, eWOM is described as “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product or company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via the Internet” (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004). eWOM, in alignment with the Theory of Planned Behavior, is one of the most trusted channels for consumer decision-making. There are some telling statistics to validate that statement, such as 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends, and word-of-mouth marketing generates 5 times more sales than paid media. Brands that are effective at emotionally connecting with their consumers receive 3 times more word-of-mouth than those that don’t and lastly, word-of-mouth drives $6 trillion in annual consumer spending.

Word of Mouth is extremely influential in purchase decisions, especially in the hospitality, electronics, and grocery sectors with over 30% stating word-of-mouth influences their purchasing behavior.

Figure 1: Statista WOM Purchase Influence By Category

Understanding the influence of social norms in your product category and the foundational beliefs of the Theory of Planned Behavior will help shed light and consideration on your marketing strategies and tactics. With almost 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 consumers influenced by the opinions of their social network, word-of-mouth generating 5x the ROI, the stakes to create relevant content and marketing programs through the right channel at the right time have never been higher. The first step starts with reflection. Think about Jay Baer, Marketing Expert, “content is fire; social media is gasoline.” Look at your analytics on your social channels to see what type of content your customers are engaging with, who is engaging a lot, does anyone shares your content regularly, or regularly engages with your brand positively, or mentions your brand on social media? Are your customers creating content and talking about your brand or product/service category? Are you joining the conversation or just lurking? Spend some time reflecting on your past and using those insights to build effective strategies for the future. Remember, it’s all about your customer, their community, and how you can support their challenges and needs, positively, consistently, and effectively.

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