There's a lot of debate around defining the value of social media in marketing.
Leaving aside the question of ROI, one angle on that value question is to look at each company's reach and the impact that social media can have. That reach is defined not only by industries and markets but also by how early in the customer's learning-to-buying voyage that a company can participate.
That voyage is what many marketers call the Buyer's Journey.
What is the Buyer's Journey?
There are many terms for it -- but they all speak to the same thing - a 6 to 10 stage voyage that your prospects make as they go from centering around their challenges to focusing on your products / services and those of your competitors for purchase.
What makes it particularly significant is how it defines the impact that social media can have on your marketing reach. The later you go in the Buyer's Journey, the more you're faced with short attention spans and a lot of competitive presence. Access to customers earlier is the big prize of social media marketing and the wider area of engagement marketing.
What's the Key Challenge Around it?
Make no mistake, marketing is a battle … a battle not only against competitors but against perceptions, lack of education and for the attention of prospects
All this points to the critical value of social media in marketing.
So what's the big challenge in this effort? To shift your company's mindset to a more customer centric one and to transform your marketing messages into engaging educational messaging that belongs in their early stage thought processes.
Laying Out the Buyers Journey For Each Industry
Fundamentally the same, but with significant differences at the detail level, buyers in most industries pass through similar levels in their buyers journey
1. Unaware / untroubled
2. Troubled / aware
3. Investigation of options
Until recently, vendors rarely had opportunities to engage with customers before the third stage.
But now with social media, the engagement can start at a much earlier (1st) stage -- often without competitors breathing down your neck.
The real opportunity to set the tone for the conversation -- in your favor -- by creating awareness of your solutions and perspectives and to drive the buyer's education in a direction that supports your products or services over others.