How Customers Use Social Media to Shop LocalAs Facebook becomes more business friendly it is making inroads as a way for customers to express their likes and dislikes about local businesses — and select where they shop.  For example, the “Like” button, which Facebook launched in 2010, is more popular than Yelp as a way for customers to show their support for a local business, according to a Harris Interactive survey.

Survey results also reveal that no single source or factor dominates the consumer decision-making process of which local business to choose. In other words, customers consult numerous sources when making local purchase decisions – especially when trying something new. The key for local business owners is this:  While having a Facebook page and encouraging “Likes” is important, taking steps to reach customers through a variety of methods, both online and offline, is critical as well.

Here are some other top findings from the Harris Interactive study:

  • When it comes to recommending a local business or a professional service, a whisper in the ear still trumps a click.  Three out of four local customers (75%) still recommend businesses by word of mouth. Also, 20% of people say they will “Like” a local business on Facebook to show their support, compared to about 13% who say they’ll write a review.
  • Younger age groups are much more likely to hop on Facebook over Yelp, as are women.  While about 40% of people under 35 will “Like” a business on Facebook, the figure is 49% in the 18-24 group. Also, 18% said they would write a review.  About 25% of women hit the “Like” button, and 11% write reviews.
  • Daily deal sites aren’t as big a factor as some people think. Despite the frenzied attention given to Groupon, Living Social and others, discounts and offers do not appear to be a major factor in how consumers choose a merchant.  Less than 1 in 10 people (8%) said a deal is the No. 1 thing that influences them to try a local business.
  • More than half (52%) of adults under 35 visit more than two websites before visiting a local business; 63% of respondents under 35 head to Google; 24% visit Facebook; and 21% look at reviews sites.  Much to marketers’ chagrin, a hefty 17% say they simply click on the first link in a search result, whatever it happens to be.
  • People do care about the face behind the business. When doing their homework, customers under 35 say that feedback from the business owner can carry equal weight to input from friends or social networks.  The message is clear:  When doing online marketing, be sure you are personally represented along with your deals or specials.  Almost half (47%) of people under age 35 are more influenced by the owner of the establishment than a friend.
  • High gas prices and distance are changing how consumers decide;  67% of people overall said that gas prices factor into their decision about which businesses to visit – 87% of women ages 18-34 said gas prices and distance influence their decision, compared to 67% of men in the same age range.
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