A recent Pew study showed that only 14 percent of Americans changed their mind on a political or social issue in the past year because of something they saw on social media. While sometimes thought of as an online public square, was this ever its purpose? Social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter, can often become echo chambers where like-minded people gather to reaffirm beliefs, or engage in fiery debates with arguments they may not fully believe or understand. I’ve never expected a post raving about a new steak house to convince a vegetarian to give it a try.

Where social media excels is in moving people along the path from awareness to evangelism. Getting people to give up or change a held belief is never easy, and usually requires personal real-world experience. When introducing something new or unfamiliar, brands have the chance to move people to trial and ultimately become their unpaid spokespeople.

Awareness: It is hard to separate out social, digital, and mobile data, and while television is still a powerhouse, a notable rise in discovery happening online is undeniable. This becomes even stronger as one might suspect with younger audiences. While brand content is a part of it, WOM and influencer recommendations hold higher sway. Having the right content and influencer(s) is where brands must focus their efforts. Just because an influencer reaches your target audience, it doesn’t mean they are the right person for your message. Authenticity and believability are paramount.

Trial: This first point of conversion is where it can get messy. Social channels are trying to improve this with click-to-buy enhancements, but without heavy primary research, being able to connect social media awareness to trial is still a bit of a white whale. It isn’t that radio ads had some magical ability to do this, it is just today there are so many channels of communication that you can’t just run one stream of messaging in a market and measure sales impact. E-commerce, promo codes and other tools can help inform the path to purchase, but definitive evidence is elusive.

Engagement: Beyond likes, shares and comments, engagement with a brand can take many forms. It can be even more powerful when it happens offline. In our work on brands with a story, we often engage with people at events. The real-world interactions are tremendous opportunities to engage people in conversation and understand what they care about and why. That is one reason we always try to staff these occasions with the account team, so that we can bring back this insight to the client.

Evangelism: When does your brand become badge worthy? In some of those custom events I mention, we had a tattoo artist ready to “brand” our ambassadors. It was a unique element that drove sharing at the event and conversation beyond. Now you don’t have to ink people up to get them to evangelism. At this point, people are talking about you because they have made an emotional connection. They may feel it reflects positively on them, or they are so passionate about something you do that they want to let the world know (or at least their friends).

Social media is a tremendous space for discovery and sharing. Changing minds might be aspirational, but shaping opinion is possible.Click To Tweet

Social media is a tremendous space for discovery and sharing. Changing minds might be aspirational, but shaping opinion is possible. You just need to make sure you have a voice in the space. Interested in an audit of your social channels? Contact us. 

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