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A father and son walked onto a car lot and started looking around. As the salesperson approached, the son, 14- or 15-years old, was clearly directing his father towards a particular new vehicle. They met the salesperson in front of a Chevy Cruze and told her that they wanted to take it for a test drive.
As car deals go, this one was a pretty easy one. The negotiations were tough – they were informed buyers who paid well under MSRP after discounts and rebates on a 2013 with 2014 models rolling out – but otherwise it was pretty quick. They knew what they wanted and didn’t need much convincing that it was the right car for them.
When asked what helped them make their decision, the duo surprised their salesperson. “I’ve been following the car for a while on Facebook,” the son said.
She was perpexed. “Following the car?” she asked.
Apparently, the young man had been “following” several cars on social media for a couple of months. He told her something that shook her up a bit, which prompted her to tell her general manager, which prompted him to contact me. The young man told her, “My generation doesn’t trust the ‘expert reviews’ as much as we trust each other. We trust other people. The Cruze has been getting loved on by people all over Facebook and Twitter, much more than anything else in my price range.”
“My price range,” his father corrected.
This was the younger buyer’s car, at least it was going to be if he got a scholarship when he graduated from high school. His father would be driving it until then but wanted his son’s input since it would be his (hopefully) in a few years.
This story sparked my inquiry into my 14-year-old’s social media activity. As a conscientious and terrified father, I keep tabs on my children’s internet activity, but I’d never done a deep dive into her activities. I was looking for boys contacting her, of course, but now I had a reason to ask her some questions. What she told me was somewhat shocking (a hard thing to admit considering the amount of time I spend researching social media).
On Instagram, she had friends at her junior high with tens of thousands of followers. Everything they posted would get hundreds of likes. On Facebook, it was much of the same. The funny part was that they weren’t just posting updates about Lady Gaga or nail polish. I saw posts about Chick-fil-A, the Nissan Leaf (one of my daughter’s friend’s dream car), Qantas Airlines (they’re already picking airlines?), and even a nice debate about which tablets are best to take on vacation when stuck with the parents for the summer trip.
Today’s youths, tomorrow’s buyers, are turning to social media to learn more about brands than any other medium. They aren’t researching cars on Edmunds or KBB. They’re checking them out on YouTube, tracking them on Facebook, and following them on Twitter. They’re savvy enough to find what others are saying about them.
This is all fine and dandy for the future, but what about today? Then, my daughter pointed something out. Many major decisions are made by the family rather than just the parents. It’s more common today than ever before. Teen children are often major influencers when it comes to buying decisions.
Does this mean that businesses should turn their social media attention to be more like Justin Bieber or The Hunger Games? Of course not. Still, it’s important to know that it’s not just the direct buyers that are watching businesses on social media. It’s also important to note that tomorrow’s buyers are more connected through social media than today. This means that every day, as kids enter the buying market, more consumers are influenced by social media. It’s an important part of marketing today. It’s growing to become even more important over time. In the future, one might make the connection that social media could be the most influential component of a buying decision. That may be hard to imagine today, but the trends are clear.
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