Consumer Behavior PART TWO: Consumer Perception in Social Media
Welcome back to the second installment of Boomtown Internet Group’s Consumer Behavior in Social Media blog posts. For this post we will be discussing the concept of consumer perception and how it plays into the way consumers see, feel, and react to your business’s social media.
Perception IS Reality
This statement means more to marketers than you would think. The idea that a consumer’s perception is a consumer’s reality is something that should always be kept in mind when attending to your company’s social media efforts. Perception is crucial in understanding consumer behavior because what consumers perceive is what affects their actions, even if their perceptions aren’t necessarily true. You may be the greatest company known to man but if your consumer base has a negative perception of your business, you’ll never receive the recognition you deserve.
The Perceptual Process
Every consumer goes through a process comprised of three stages for them to create a perception of something: Exposure, Attention, and Comprehension. Each of these stages plays a unique and equally important role and should be focused on by your company in order for your consumers to be able to form the perception you want them to form.
Exposure: This is the first stage in the perception process and is when the consumer comes into physical contact with a stimulus, whether they come in contact with a link to your page or a search query. This doesn’t necessarily mean they notice stimulus, but you need to make sure that at the very least your product or brand is present for their senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) to pick up on.
Attention: The second stage is attention. This is essentially the gateway to perception and is when your product or brand has been actually been noticed and information has been recorded by the consumer in some way. They could click on your ad or click on a link to visit your page. Gaining attention can be one of the hardest parts of consumer perception, especially in social media due to the sheer volume of competition on social networks. Here are some ways to enhance attention:
Comprehension/ Interpretation: As stated above, attention is the gateway to perception. Once you crash through the gateway you must convey something substantial and lasting. Comprehension is the interpretation that a consumer develops about a stimulus in order to assign meaning to it. This means that in the event someone enters your page; make sure they have the information needed to comprehend what your business is all about. If you’re going to have a company page on a social network, don’t host a lifeless, dull page or else consumers may form a negative perception of your company. Interpretation is constructed as needed based on two major factors: The “actual” stimulus and prior expectations.
*Note that perception is constructive so most people construct interpretations on the fly.
How Consumers Perceive
When it comes down to it, consumers see and hear what they expect to see and hear. The world is chock full of stimuli. So much that it is impossible for any one person to perceive them all. Consumers tend to only select the things that are favorable and important to them and ignore the rest. They also tend to only see what fits with their general beliefs and stereotypes.
Coincidentally, consumers do this to help them form classifications of stimuli. This is called categorization. Categorization allows consumers to make assumptions and inferences about your company. Considering these behaviors should help feature your company on social media. You can up-play or down-play the categories your consumers place you in within their perception depending if you feel it accurately depicts your business.
When positioning your brand or company in social media it is always a wise decision to create a perceptual map. Perceptual maps allow you to see how consumers perceive your brand versus competing brands. These can be very useful when developing a social media strategy and help serve a variety of functions.
- Identifying competitive advantages- Assess how your competitors’ social media compares to yours; is it more or less aesthetically appealing, is there more or less unique, compelling content, etc.
- Assessing potential markets- Comparing and contrasting social media presence, identifying available apps, etc.
- Plotting important consumer factors- Finding what consumers like and dislike about social media and catering your page as such
When utilizing social media as a marketing strategy, you have to understand how consumers perceive the world around them. Remember, PERCEPTION IS REALITY from a consumer standpoint and using this to your advantage will help further your presence and relevance online. Being able to play against a consumer’s perception of your company will ultimately help with marketing to them in the future. –Evan Blumenthal