Fantasy Customers vs. Real Customers

by Ken Mueller on August 31, 2012 · 24 comments

white 15 Fantasy Customers vs. Real CustomersSend to Kindle

300px Magic Kingdom38 Fantasy Customers vs. Real Customers

One of the most important roles that social media can play as part of your overall communications strategy is that of listening or monitoring. Brands can use social media to not only learn what their customers think of them, but what sorts of things their customers and potential customers want. Listening offers you the chance to gather important market research as you seek to identify potential customers and turn them into actual customers.

But there’s a bit of a disconnect. Businesses and marketers spend so much time and effort obsessing over amassing likes/followers/share/pins/tweets/etc/etc/etc that we often forget that  not all of them are our customers. In fact, many of them aren’t even potential customers. Just because someone likes your page, doesn’t mean you’re going to get any business from them.

Case in point: my daughter.

Elizabeth is a 23-year old college graduate. She LOVES Pinterest. I know because I follow her on Pinterest. I see her boards and I see what she pins. I also see what her friends are doing on Pinterest. They all have boards where they pin things for that wonderful wedding that they dream of having someday. They post items that they want in their dream home.

Marketers must salivate at this, looking at all the items that these young women want. But there’s a problem; a disconnect.

You see, I know my daughter. There’s no chance that she’ll be purchasing 90+% of those items. A $7,000 wedding dress? Dream on. I think I’ll start my own board called “Elizabeth’s Elopement” for pinning pictures of ladders…(Sorry, Elizabeth. I love you, but as my dad used to say “I”m not made of money!”).

And her Dream House board? I need to emphasize the word “dream”. She’s a pre-school teacher. I know how much money she makes. So unless she plans on marrying into some serious money, she’ll have to keep dreaming. So if you’re a marketer, don’t get too excited when you look at what my daughter is pinning.

By the way, Elizabeth, I notice that you have a board called “Dad’s Blog Posts” and you’ve only pinned one thing to it: a post I wrote about you when you graduated from college. Perhaps this new post will make it there as well. (hint)

But this is how we all use social media. We all dream. People might like Aston Martins and might share and pin all sorts of things about Aston Martins, but how many of them actually have a few hundred-thousand dollars laying around? And if they do, would they spend it all on one car? We window shop online in much the same way tourists window shop along 5th Avenue in NYC or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Wish lists are not grocery lists. Wish lists are for dreamers, grocery lists are for shoppers. This is particularly true for luxury items, but even with sites like Amazon, my wish list is filled with plenty of books I’ll probably never purchase.

The real challenge for businesses is to find ways to separate the fantasy customers from the real customers; separate the people who just dream about owning your product from those who are actual potential buyers. It’s not always easy, but social media, the same tool that enables dreaming, also enables you to do your research. Through real listening and engagement, you can get a better of idea of which ones are worth pursuing; which ones have a better chance of moving through your sales funnel.

It’s not the number of likes, shares, pins, and tweets that count. Instead, pay attention to the context of those actions. Don’t confuse the two. How are people liking and sharing? What are they saying alongside their tweets and pins?

Watch closely, and pay attention. You might just learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the milk. Analytics can measure the sheer numbers, but you need to dig deeper to truly understand them. This is one reason why you can’t just automate things; you need to always have that human element that can interpret what is going on.

But don’t discount the dreamers. They might not be real prospects, but every time they like/share/tweet/pin they are telling others about you and your product, and you never know if there are any real prospects in that social pool. Just don’t count on all of your followers and fans to step up to the plate and purchase your goods.

How are you learning to differentiation between your real customers and your fantasy customers?

 

 

 Fantasy Customers vs. Real Customers
Buffer
23 comments
rdopping
rdopping

Great story Ken. I was going to say there is a bit of a dichotomy between your writing here and your Facebook activity but after thinking about it for a minute I would have to say I am wrong about that. Very human story and that proves your point implicitly. 

I am not a marketing guy but I work with people for a living and the same applies, in a way. I have to look beyond the surface to really understand my team and when I do I am able to manage them more effectively. Commodities are commodities and a person should not be treated as one. In the on-line world it is difficult to remember that in this context but you have shown us in a very human way how critically important that really is.

Damn, you're one smart cookie....;-)

geoffliving
geoffliving

Very astute post, Ken. I like this, it's the top of the funnel, the missing link is that most people really never entered the sales funnel.  Good post!

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

From the NYTimes: "According to the StatusPeople tool, 71 percent of Lady Gaga’s nearly 29 million followers are “fake” or “inactive.” So are 70 percent of President Obama’s nearly 19 million followers."

I've never really managed social media for a company or a brand. But I imagine you'd have to roll up your sleeves a bit to find just the right strategies for connecting with real customers, as well as metrics that are really useful.  It's the "rolling up the sleeves" part that I think people have trouble with, if it's like any other part of marketing. :-) 

And I agree with @HowieG @adamtoporek and @katskrieger  -- nice post!

steveziegler
steveziegler

Great post, Ken. Pinterest has been fascinating to watch. I'm in the business of marketing restaurant supplies. When Pinterest started I never would have guessed that people would actually be plotting their dream restaurants on it.  But when I check people sourcing Pins from our site, there it is, "My Bakery", "My Dream Cafe", "My Soon-to-be-diner", and so on.  That is just amazing to me, and those people have real potential for us. But you can't discount the mom and pop dreamers either. In the ecommerce realm, having a Pin button on your products allows a social signal to be sent, and that social signal can help conversions. So, you know what? I love those wedding dreamers Pinning our flatware and disposable plates time and time again. It really looks great on our product pages.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Great post and grats on the wedding

Unless you are a rare global.brand you have to look at your demographics. People say 950million facebok accounts half of them real you need to be there. But for. Local business what matters is how many are local and can buy from you

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

I always wonder if bloggers know when they deliver a truly great post, because you just did. Seriously Ken, this was an excellent post which conveys an insightful point that I really have not seen expressed before. 

It's a great question: to what degree are people's social signals aspirational and not reflective of realistic future behavior? This is very reminiscent of the age-old trap of studying consumer behavior through surveys and focus groups -- what people say they are going to do and what they actually do are often two different things. 

I think you've nailed the problem; I'm curious what will develop in the way of solutions. 

Great stuff Ken!

katskrieger
katskrieger

I'm so glad you are blogging again. I missed these great posts when you were out. This is so dead on, I can't express it. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@barrettrossie Thanks, man. And you're right. People just want to put it on autopilot: Post an update and wait for the money to roll in. It doesn't work that way. It isn't traditional, outbound marketing or advertising. You actually have to nurture it and work at it.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@HowieG Thanks, Howie, and there's no wedding any time soon. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@adamtoporek Wow, Adam, I'm blushing! Thank you for the compliment, it really means a lot coming from you. Just don't expect me to ask you to marry me like I did with Kat...

In many ways it comes down to the whole traditional media model of impressions. Just because 5,000 people drive by your billboard each day, doesn't even mean that 10 of them even saw it. And how many of those are even interested. We have to learn how to understand behavior. This is something that pure analytics can't give you, and it's certainly not something that Klout can measure. Just because I talk about you, doesn't mean you have my money.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@katskrieger @KenMueller Oh, I forgot I was dealing with Little Miss Mercenary. It's all about the give and take, eh? Me giving and you taking?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Fantasy Customers vs. Real Customers – A really insightful look at social signals and the challenges associated with using social media to differentiate customer aspirations from customer actions. […]

Previous post:

Next post: