How Social Media Impacts the Consumer Decision Making Model

“You don’t have to buy from anyone. You don’t have to work at any particular job. You don’t have to participate in any given relationship. You can choose.” – Harry Browne

Anyone who has taken a formal marketing course knows all too well the traditional consumer decision making model depicted below.

Here’s how it works…

  • Consumers recognize a void between their desired and actual states (problem awareness)
  • Seek information on products that will fill that void (information search)
  • Form a consideration set of products they believe will solve the problem (evaluation of alternatives)
  • Make a decision/purchase from that pool of alternatives (purchase)
  • Evaluate the purchase and determine if it truly solved their problem or if there is still cognitive dissonance present (post-purchase evaluation)

Consumer Decision Making Model

The steps of this model haven’t changed since the introduction of social media, but what has changed are the ways consumers seek information, form their consideration sets, and give feedback about those products after purchasing.

Marketing is no longer strictly between the brand and the consumer; it’s now between the brand, the consumer, and hundreds or thousands of the consumer’s friends and followers.

All with a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse, or tap of the phone.

It would be a gross understatement to say social media is a game-changer with respect to consumer behavior.

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While social media impacts all levels of the consumer decision model, there are two parts in particular that it disproportionately affects:

  • Information Search
  • Post-Purchase Evaluation

The Relationship Between the Information Search and Social Media

According to the 2012 Digital Influence Index study conducted by Fleishman-Hillard International Communications and Harris Interactive:

  • Nearly half of those surveyed (42 percent) currently follow or friend a brand on a social networking site. While the reasons vary widely by country, the overall greatest motivation: to learn more about the brand (79 percent). [Tweet This]
  • Nearly one in five individuals now looks to Facebook to obtain information about a brand or product. [Tweet This]

So, close to 20% of people turn to Facebook seeking information about a brand or product.

And that’s in 2012, a time when brands were just starting to get deeply involved with social media and the platforms were still maturing.

Improving the Information-Seeking Process Using Social Media
  • Consider adding a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) app on your Facebook page to handle the most common concerns of your target market.
  • Make sure your About pages across all social media accounts are consistent and packed with relevant information the consumer would need.
  • Complete your LinkedIn company page, including full product descriptions, video demonstrations, and so on.
  • Use YouTube videos to demonstrate your most sought-after or new products, showcase your business with a “company video tour,” and interview employees to give consumers a better idea of your company culture and brand.
  • Occasionally make Facebook updates that target those people who are coming to your page looking for product or company information.  Open the floor and encourage questions from your fans, have a monthly “Featured Product” full of product information…you get the picture.
What is Meant by Post-Purchase Evaluation

As consumers, we like to confirm our purchases are good ones.  After making a purchase, we often seek feedback from friends and family, we seek positive reviews on the Internet, and we start noticing other people who have the product (you never realize how many people drive a certain car until you’ve bought that brand/model yourself).

How Social Media Impacts Post-Purchase Evaluation

In my honest opinion, this is one of the most important areas of marketing where social media can have a giant positive impact.  There are many reasons for businesses to have a social media presence, but one of the primary purposes is to build an interactive, welcoming community of loyal brand enthusiasts.

Every time new customers make their way to your Facebook or Twitter pages to confirm they made a good purchase, they’ll immediately see people who are enthusiastic about the brand.  They’ll be welcomed into a group of people who likely share common buying habits and interests.

The more people they witness being positive about the product or brand, the more likely they are to feel good about their purchase. 

Finally, the “Holy Grail” of marketing: they’re more likely to repeat purchases if their first experience was positive and they feel like their purchase placed them in a close-knit community.

What Do You Think?

Do you agree that social media is greatly affecting decisions consumers make about products?  In what specific ways do you think social media has changed the game regarding consumer decisions?

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About Jonathan Payne

I'm the Founder and Author of My Social Game Plan, where I've spent the last six years writing about social media marketing in an effort to help business owners and marketers stay on top of the rapidly-evolving marketing landscape.

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  1. This is well said on many notes for many reasons. First off, yes, having a good “about” section is important and I liked what you had stated about having a FAQ’s app. So yes, I do feel social media is impacting many decisions, just as I thought the same with good blog articles. And now you can use social media to push those out also. Good article.

  2. Absolutely! Social Media has changed the way we do business and the way we purchase anything online and offline! Online presence is crucial to any business and being active on Social Media is a great way to interact with possible clients/customers.

    Great post!

  3. Dino Hukic says:

    Social media definitely affects decisions consumers make about products. Social media creates an environment for consumers to do their research. I’ve been asked many questions in the past about which laptop one should buy, but now its mostly transparent and the first person people check with are consumers with comments online. Personally, I make sure that I do a bit of research and see what people are saying online before I make a purchase. What is interesting is that things have become more transparent where there is only so much a brand can/should control. Products can’t be perfect and that we know, but it is important that they strive to be the best and it will show in the world of social media.

    • Great points, Dino. I can’t recall the last time I didn’t check out product reviews on websites or via social media before purchasing something online or offline.

  4. Sheila Hibbard says:

    Jonathan – Couldn’t agree more. The marketing principles remain the same. It is just the tools used to spread that information that have changed. Good piece.

  5. Great insight. With those points in mind, do you think there is a potential hole in the market for social reviews? E.g. reviews that are left on products or services but have that reviewer’s social profile (Facebook, Twitter, G+ etc) attached to it?

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