The Consumer Journey: How Social Media Impacts User Behavior

Dana Davis

By: Dana Davis

Account Strategy Manager

The term “marketing funnel” gets thrown around a lot by marketers/advertisers, but what does it really mean?

We know it’s the path consumers take to purchase, but without a deeper understanding of your audiences, and how they’re beginning to dictate their own paths to making more conscious purchasing decisions, those funnels are meaningless.

The specific stages of a social media funnel vary depending on who you ask and what the goals are for a campaign. Conversion paths are ever changing and social media can play an important role in guiding prospective customers through their journey with your brand.

Keep higher-level company goals/strategy in mind when building your social campaigns so you can create relevant, targeted content and show it to the audience segments where it can have the highest impact in turning prospects into leads, conversions, sales, and referrals.

3-step funnel

Marketing Funnels Then

In as little as 50 years ago, the customer journey only included a few simple steps — hearing about a product on the radio or seeing it on TV and then going into a store to purchase. This traditional marketing funnel included three main components:

  1. Prospecting - Telling new people—potential customers—about a brand, product, or service.
  2. Remarketing - Generating interest, word-of-mouth sharing, and converting prospects into purchasers.
  3. Purchase - Nurturing relationships with customers and cross/up-selling additional products or services.

What this simple funnel doesn’t take into account is how many more channels there are in the digital age that influence the customer journey. There are now dozens of forms of media and channels for distribution.

In addition to that, each business varies and every customer forms their impression of brands from many touch points on a much more complex customer journey. The digital age has shifted marketing from a linear path to a more serpentine, or even circular, journey. These days, businesses need to customize their own funnel based on their marketing tools and audiences.

7-step funnel

Marketing Funnels Now

Today, businesses need to customize their own funnel based on their marketing tools and audiences. There are so many marketing channels now, and social media has changed the game significantly. Customers are becoming more savvy and essentially creating their own paths to purchase.

With so many choices and so much information at their fingertips, consumers are starting to research and plan their purchases with a lot more thought behind them.

A good starting place for today’s conversion path, is a funnel that includes many stages:

  1. Brand Awareness - Introducing new people who don’t know your business to you brand and product or service.
  2. Education/Interest - Tell brand new potential customers more about your business and the value it can provide to them.
  3. Consideration - As prospects learn more, they move into the consideration phase, where they start weight options, cost, etc.
  4. Intent - Once prospects have started to consider purchasing more seriously they begin to take actions that indicate intent to purchase like converting as a lead, adding to cart, or even beginning the check out process.
  5. Evaluation - Sometimes it takes multiple visits to the site or a store to evaluate purchasing decisions. This is where people often have the internal struggle between wants and needs.
  6. Purchase - After a long journey, the prospective customer makes their final purchase. It’s important at this point to make sure they’re happy with the product and that customer service is readily available if they are not.
  7. Loyalty/Advocacy - Turning one-time purchasers into life-long loyalists who share your business with their family, friends, and strangers. This is an often forgotten step that plays a crucial role in building the life-time value of your business.

A common mistake made by marketers is to only invest in a few stages of the funnel or forgetting that people sometimes cycle through the middle stages a few times while they think things over and compare with competitor businesses.

It’s hard to think about your potential customers preferring other brands to yours, but it’s necessary in understanding what kind of messages you need to use, and when, to have the biggest impact on their decision.

Omni-channel Conversion Paths

It’s not a perfect tool, but Google Analytics has an entire tab dedicated to illustrating the conversion paths that your customers are taking. Look at it, study it, and use it to help gain a deeper understanding of how your customers are arriving at the purchase stage.

Here are a few examples of multi-channel conversion paths that include social, search, email, and direct traffic that you might see in Google Analytics:

  • Facebook 1x > Search Ad 2X > Direct 3x > Facebook Ad 1x > Direct 1x
  • Facebook Ad 1x > Search Ad 1x > Email 2x > Facebook Ad 2x
  • Search Ad 1x > Facebook Ad 1x > Direct 2x

Plus, there are infinite paths beyond these ones that can also include TV, billboards, new channels, other social channels, etc. This is why it’s so important for every business to customize and understand their own customer’s paths in order to match up messaging and creative.

Group of people in boardroom
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Visualizing Your Business’ Funnel

Every business should have its own, customized marketing funnel. And every funnel is fluid and always changing, so continuous understanding and flexibility is key.

As you start to understand your business’s customer conversion paths, there are a few things you should take into account:

  • Goal Setting - Every ad campaign you run should have a goal that aligns with multiple phases of the funnel. If you’re running a brand awareness campaign, make sure you have a remarketing campaign supporting it so those people who have been introduced to your business can be exposed multiple times and learn more at every touchpoint.
  • Strategy by Platform - Every social platform is different, so understanding how each one fits into your customer’s journey. And even more specifically, understand how each campaign and ad type on each platform functions within the path to conversion as well.
  • Sequencing Messaging/Creatives - Don’t use the same copy and creatives for every level of the funnel. If a prospect sees and ad and visits the site, it’s a waste of ad dollars to show them the same exact ad again when they’re remarketed to. Instead, build upon what they’ve learned from the first one and provide additional information/value to them in the following ads.
  • Making Adjustments - The customer paths will always be changing, so it’s important to keep an eye on how they develop and adapt accordingly. As new platforms and other channels for disseminating information come into play, it will be crucial to keep the approach to omni-channel marketing fresh and agile.


The internet, and Social Media more specifically, has played a huge role in changing how consumers research, plan, and make their purchases. It has increased the amount of involvement that consumers have, and has influenced the level of communication and types of dialogues that happen between brands and their customers.

There are more touch-points than ever before and consumers are able to pick and choose where they find information, how it’s delivered to them, and where they prefer to purchase—like whether it’s directly from a 1st party website or 3rd party retailers like Amazon.

Businesses that are going to dominate over the next few decades will be the ones that can adapt and change with consumer trends and preferences. It’s no longer enough to just be online - they’ll need to be online in the right places and at the right time to make an impact if they’re going to break through all the noise.

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