Influence of Social Networking Sites on Consumer Behavior
Social Networking Sites (SNS) have become an integral part of our life in the last decade or so. They have been impacting our behaviors in many ways including our purchasing behavior as consumers. Research has indicated that brand pages in SNS like Facebook pages and Twitter pages have been used by companies to induce a motivation of loyalty towards these brand by their customers (Tsai & Men, 2013). In this paper I would overview the relation between SNSs and the consumer decision making process of Need Recognition, Search, Alternative Evaluation and Choice.
Decision Making 1: Need Recognition and Search
When we want to assess the importance of SNSs in the recognition of need, we must also look at how, sometime, these website may make a want to become a need. We can use the same SNSs as an example. I had a Facebook page about Facebook Timeline covers in the past. It used to have a stable and moderate stream of page likes. But what I saw that the other competing Facebook pages had a lot more likes than mine. They were Facebook page belonging to already established websites. The number of like these pages took years to build. On the other hand, my page was new and had a good progress. But I wanted to have more page likes just like my competitors had. With time my want for more like increased and it became a need for me. I used Facebook page advertisement and spend a good amount of money on buying likes for my page. But as soon as I discontinued the advertisement, the likes speed went to its previous condition. What I want to stress here is that SNSs could be vital in recognizing a need or making a want a need.
SNSs can also be used to search for information about a product before purchasing it. As I said earlier that different businesses and brands have their pages on Facebook, Twitter or any other SNS. These pages are usually up to date with information about the products they are offering. Product photos and specifications are posted on the SNS product pages. The customers can contact the customer services with these pages for more information. The easiest way to communicate with customer services is to post a comment to a product post and the customer’s services representative will definitely reply to it with the desired information.
Decision Making 2: Alternative Evaluation and Choice
When a consumer needs to assess different alternative before a product choice, they can see the product reviews of the products on their respective SNS pages. Customers leave reviews about how good the product is and rate the product. A consumer can search for information on different SNS pages, make a list of the products they would be interested in and then revisit the pages to see what the previous customers say about the product in their reviews. This can definitely help in making a correct choice.
One thing that should be kept in mind is that there is also a possibility that the reviews are faked. I mean that there are plenty of paid reviewers available online with multiple WNS accounts who offer to give 5 star reviews in return for money. Therefore, other sources should be used in addition to SNS when alternative evaluation is conducted.
SNS can help in making a choice in the consumer decision making process but there is a need to be vigilant and protect yourself from fake information about the products on their SNS pages and fake reviews that might be bought against money and not honestly done.
Babin, B. & Harris, E. CB7, 7th Edition.
Tsai, W. H. S., & Men, L. R. (2013). Motivations and antecedents of consumer engagement with brand pages on social networking sites. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 13(2), 76-87.