Making a purchase decision is always risky for the buyer, especially when it comes to social media sales.
Getting it wrong often has an immediate impact – financial, operational, reputational – as well as potential long-term consequences too. No wonder buyers move cautiously through a staged buying process, seeking advice from trusted sources each step of the way.
Who are those trusted sources?
Well, in the B2B world inhabited by respondents of the Altify Business Performance Benchmark Study 2017, Social Media is not one of them. Globally, just 15 percent of study participants use Social Media as a trusted source to influence a buying decision. And regionally, while respondents in Rest of World (RoW) are more trusting of Social Media than their colleagues in the Americas or EMEA, Social Media remains very clearly the least trusted source of advice.
Even Gen-X, the ‘digital babies,’ are wary of Social Media as a trusted source for buying decisions – only 18 percent trust it. And, surprisingly, their older brothers and sisters, the Millenials, who are higher users of Social Media according to Pew Research, scored it even lower: at just 13 percent.
And while Marketing and IT have greater faith in Social Media – almost double their colleagues in other roles – again the results show that Social Media just doesn’t cut it.
So is there no role for Social Media in influencing buying decisions?
In the Americas and EMEA, the most trusted source of advice that influences buying decisions is the buyer’s own independent research. In RoW, experts in the company slightly surpasses independent research. However, intuition – we have no direct proof yet – tells us that buyers look for different types of advice, from different sources, at different stages in the buying cycle.
In the early stage, when needs are being defined, buyers often look online to see what’s available within their budget parameters. As they engage with sellers and move closer to signing on the dotted line, or clicking on the ‘Buy’ button, they then look more for human affirmation.
So although Social Media does not rank highly as a trusted source at the point of a buying decision, perhaps it shapes the path to that decision, from the earliest moments of the awakening of need in the buyer’s mind?