In The State of Social Marketing 2012, Brian Solis defines a “social consumer”: one who turns to relevant social networks first to learn about products and services. This characterization suggests the social consumer isn’t researching their purchase considerations beyond word-of-mouth and reviews.
Do social consumers rely too heavily on social proof to validate their purchasing decisions? People often lack the time and energy to research purchases fully especially when peer reviews seem accurate, accessible and as credible as anything else. People don’t always trust experts and often prefer hearing from someone more like themselves.
Furthermore, many can’t logically will themselves to seek out expert sources when making small non-recurring purchases. With significant time constraints and apparently limited risk, why should individuals bother going further than Yelp before making a purchase?
Usually they don’t – and it’s not because they are foolish. In many instances, social media allows individuals to feel like experts by giving them easy access to the opinion of many non-experts: their peers.
Peer validation by way of peer opinion is easier than ever to find. For instance, some of the most widely accepted beverage companies (Coca-Cola and Red Bull) brilliantly achieve widespread influence over consumer sentiment in spite of questionable health benefits. Will experts start calling more of the shots as they gain authority in social media? Or will consumers continue to take their cues mainly from each other?
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