Consumers Prefer Connecting with Brands through Corporate Websites February 11, 2011 by Michael Olson customer profile data We’ve discussed on this blog how the emergence of social media has flipped the trust continuum and prioritized earned media as an influential marketing channel ahead of owned media and paid media. The ascent of earned media has caused brands to flock to Twitter and Facebook to connect and engage with consumers, quite successfully in many instances as demonstrated by companies like JetBlue and Whole Foods. But a recent report published by Razorfish indicates that most consumers still prefer to connect with brands through traditional methods such as corporate websites, email and word-of-mouth. Surprising, right? One of the chief mantras of earned media is that the consumer is in control, yet Razorfish’s study found that the control element really isn’t what makes consumers tick. Rather, most still prefer feeling valued, efficiency, trust, as more important elements of engagement with a brand. The report also acknowledges that harnessing word-of-mouth and peer recommendation trumps all other marketing channels as a means of generating influence. When asked which channels or sources influence decisions to use a particular company, brand or product, 71% of consumers surveyed responded that reviews from family members or friends exerted a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence. Further, 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know. For online businesses seeking to optimize their social CRM efforts, the takeaways are evident: Your corporate website is still the go-to location. Company websites are the best at making consumers feel valued and facilitating trust, consistency and relevance. So, don’t make it hard for your consumers. Reduce barriers to sign-up by letting them utilize their existing social identities. Don’t completely ignore one channel in favor of another. Your corporate website, community site, Facebook and Twitter presences are all key components of an integrated marketing strategy. They should augment each other. Leverage earned media (such as your Facebook and Twitter pages) to drive traffic to channels where you own more of the message, like your website. By then enabling your website users to share content from your site with their social networks, you can create a virtuous circle of qualified, sustained referral traffic. Make your consumers feel valued. But how do you build relationships if you don’t know anything about your consumers? Gaining an understanding of the demographics, interests and social graphs of your consumers can help you increase lifetime value, either through customer service, loyalty programs, targeted campaigns or content personalization. Social and behavioral data are the foundations of effective consumer engagement.