Social media has swept the attention of every age group and consumer habits have shifted thanks to apps and sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others. Brands and companies have both necessarily embraced social platforms as new tools to reach and interact with their audiences.

Whilst brands have come to recognize the importance of interacting with their fan base and potential fan bases, and most focus on the number of followers, the question should be asked is; does it actually lead to outcomes that drive revenue? Information today is a constant stream 24/7 from social platforms, recommendations and media. Does this affect a consumer’s path to discovery?

Research has shown that all channels; owned, earned and paid, lead to the road of consumer purchase. Recommendations and sharing play an important role in not only in discovery, but creating bonds between brands and audiences that lead to trial and purchase. Hence it is critical for brands to understand the path that their customers are most likely to take. For example, if you are wanting to buy a car, you are more likely to be influenced by review sites, search, the brand’s own website and word of mouth. If you researched music online, you would more than likely be influenced by Youtube or friend recommendations on Facebook or TV shows like MTV.

Because of the growth of social media as a platform for consumer reviews and recommendations, consumers have an increasing amount of influence on the way a brand is perceived by others. And some consumers are creating content that has the potential to influence others through non-traditional media sources like blogs and posting videos.

All channels play an important role within the cycle of recommendation, loyalty and purchase, but understanding your consumer path to purchase will greatly influence a positive ROI on your social media activities.