B2B Marketing Trends: The Rise of Consumers as the New Influencers

Traditionally the media and industry analysts have been revered as major market influencers (the people your target audience – those you’re trying to sell to – listen to). A leader position in an analyst report or positive product review was the holy grail of PR efforts. While these influencers continue to wield power, the collective influence of consumers is widening.

An increasing number of people are participating in online conversations – sharing opinions and influencing purchasing decisions (explicitly or implicitly) – as part of their daily routine. At the same time trust in consumer opinions posted online is growing, as social networks become dynamic ecosystems that develop and nurture relationships between people and the content they share.

As social media adoption goes mainstream, we cannot ignore the growing influence consumers have on brand affinity and purchasing decisions.

Here are some interesting tidbits for you to consider as you create your 2010 marketing plan:

  1. Social networks are gaining in popularity. Facebook has over 300 million active users and Twitter was declared the top word of 2009 by the Global Language Monitor. Need I say more?
  2. Online consumer opinions are becoming more trusted. An April 2009 Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey found that people trust consumer opinions posted online as much as editorial content and more than traditional newspapers and magazines.
  3. Social media content influences buying decisions. A study by SNCR Research concludes that traditional influence cycles are being disrupted by social media as decision makers utilize social networks to inform and validate decisions.
  4. People find products through social network sites. According a study released by Performics on how consumers use social networks to discover products 30% of respondents admitted to learning about a product, service or brand on a social network site, 44% recommended a product on Twitter and 39% have discussed a product on Twitter. 48% of people who saw a brand’s name on Twitter went to a search engine to look for the product.
  5. The volume of user generated content is growing. According to MarketingVox and Nielsen BuzzMetrics, “25% of search results for the world’s Top 20 brands link to user generated content.” If this trend holds, it is possible that user generated content will dominate search results as customers far outnumber the number of employees of even the largest brands.

As people embrace and exercise their ability to share their opinions through social networks, we as marketers must take note, listen to the conversations and evolve how we engage with our consumers.