The Gap Between Social Customers and Social Marketers

More than three-quarters (76%) of social media marketers say they know what their customers want, but only one-third (34%) have actually asked them.

Shocking, right? One of the basic tenets of marketing — know your customers — is being ignored by the vast majority of brands that are trying to achieve success with social media marketing. There’s a major disconnect between what consumers desire and what they actually receive from the brands they follow on social networks. It’s no wonder marketers have trouble getting good results.

A revealing research report from the team at Pivot documents the growing gap between marketers and customers. The data shows that consumers and brands are far apart when it comes to perceptions, behaviors, attitudes, and expected benefits. This divide, which industry analyst Brian Solis calls the perception gap, presents a problem for brands that are trying to maximize user engagement and conversion rates on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Marketers must reach out directly to their audience and offer them what they want — if they don’t, they’ll suffer the consequences in terms of awareness, engagement, and revenue.

Here are some side-by-side responses from social consumers and social marketing professionals on a range of topics outlined in the report. The existence of the perception gap is clear and its extent is startling.

Social media marketers say that they know who their customers are, but most have never tried to find out what’s important to them.

Solis says it well: “What do people want? If you don’t know, why not ask them? Seems like a common sense question to ask. However, when it comes to customer engagement and relations, common sense appears to be an uncommon virtue.” Where is all their confidence is coming from if they haven’t bothered to collaborate with their audience about what they’re looking for?

Most companies believe they know their social customers well Most companies don't ask consumers what they want


What consumers want from social brands vs. what marketers think they want.

Social customers are most hungry for deals, exclusive content, and loyalty or rewards programs based on their engagement. Brand marketers believe they value social customer service above all else, while the reality is that it’s much less important to them.

What consumers want from social brands vs. what marketers think they want

Brands have a more limited, two-dimensional view of mobile consumer behavior than consumers do.

Both sides agree that Facebook dominates mobile usage, followed by Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn. But consumers are spread more widely across a variety of platforms than marketers have assumed. Brands have a narrow, winner-take-all sensibility, while consumers use more of a let’s-try-everything approach.

 Brands have a limited, two-dimensional view of mobile social behavior

The gap is also apparent when it comes to daily deals and coupons.

Consumers and marketers both rate Groupon as number one, but, in this case as well, brands overweight the leader and underweight everyone else. Consumers view Groupon as less dominant, have little preference for one network over another, and use other platforms much more than marketers think they do.  Consumers are going wherever the deals are, which isn’t what brands seem to think.

The gap between consumers and brands about deal and coupon sites

Henry Ford famously said, “If I would have asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Sometimes customers don’t know what they want, and sometimes they do. Asking them should be part of your persistent customer research — it will give you insights and help you create innovative strategies to engage and empathize with your audience.

Here’s an infographic from the report that nicely illustrates many of its findings:

The perception gap between social consumers and social media marketers