Social Media Life Cycle
The Social Media Life Cycle provides an insight into the stimuli that propels the process of converting content and conversations – via transactions – into recommendations. The real power of social media is found in earned media: according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report 2012 92% trust recommendations of friends and relatives. Followed by 70% that trust online reviews by other consumers. Although trust is important for any transaction, it is just one step in the social media life cycle.
The four phases in the Social Media Life Cycle are seeding, nurturing, harvesting and spreading. We can’t spread if we haven’t seeded the fruits of our intentions. And we can’t harvest if we haven’t properly nurtured our customers, friends, followers, influencers, ambassadors, promotors and distractors. That’s why we call it a life cycle: you have to take your customers one or more times through every step of the cycle in order to get the recommendations and customer reviews that will truly propel your social commerce.
To start the cycle we first need to plant a suggestion. A suggestion is a representation of who we are, what we do, how we do it, why we do it and what we have to offer. This will be unique for every brand, as it is the outcome of our specific intentions (vision, purpose, value, commitment and transparancy).
To plant the suggestion we need to interact in social media by participating in conversations, offer our help, ask for help, share content, react on blogs and so no. If this suggestion strikes a chord, attention will follow, allowing the suggestion to grow into a consideration.
The second phase (nutruring) is as important as the first one: we now have a perception of what the product can do for us, but we’re not sure yet if the suggestion of suggestor was genuine. So we’ll start searching the internet, ask others, look for online reviews, visit the website and so on, in order to validate the proposition and it’s proposer.
This will lead to an expectation of the risks involved in a possible transaction and the value the transaction is expected bring us. Doubt will start to arise from every bad review, the lack of recommendations or the quality of your website. We might need some persuasion to move the process forward: introduce scarcity, show consistency, power social proof, etc.
Trust will only emerge if people believe what we believe: most of all that we are sincere and act in their best interest. Every transaction will lead to an experience: was your information valuable, did you deliver on time, does the product offer the expected value, etc. Simply said: Are you trustworthy? Did the expectations meet the experience? This is were both party harvest: they have exchanged money for goods or services. How was the fulfilment perceived? Is the customer happy? Can you do more, do you need to take products back? Both need to evaluate how (the outcome of) the transaction is perceived by the other party.
The final phase (spreading) is where positive experiences are translated into brand loyalty or affection. And where intention, attention, fulfilment and aftercare adds to the reputation of the proposer. By asking a customer to share its experience with others, either through an online review or by sharing the purchase with friends and family, they infect others with their affection. This is not the end of the cycle, it is merely a new beginning.