Our headline may seem a little obvious: of course more people are using social media now, right?
The most recent poll from Harris Interactive goes a little deeper than that, though. It’s not just that more Americans have social accounts or that individuals on average have more networks to their names: an increasing number of users now see “tangible benefits” to social beyond live-tweeting Scandal…and this means that individual promotions/mentions are growing more valuable.
It’s good news for PR in a few ways.
- The number of American adults who say they’ve received good advice on “something to try” from social media rose 10 points in 2014, from 40 percent to 50 percent
This number even applies to “matures,” or those over the age of 69: a full 33 percent told Harris that they’d received good advice on where to spend their money over the past year via their “friends” on social.
A couple of older papers also support these conclusions: in February of 2014, another Harris study found that a majority (58 percent) of consumers will make a purchase based on a friend’s social media recommendation, and an April survey by ShareThis and The Paley Center for Media found that such endorsements lead consumers to pay, on average, 9.5 percent more for a product.
Given the very flexible definition of the word “friend” as applied to social, this potentially means even greater power for influencers and PR moving forward.
Another interesting finding from the survey found that Americans are growing more comfortable living “connected” lives: despite all the bad headlines about data leaks in 2014 (hi, Snapchat), most of us remain surprisingly confident in our ability to prevent related problems by tweaking the old privacy settings.
The chart below tracks responses to the question, “are you confident in your current privacy settings?”
So while general confidence did decrease after all those digital leak stories, most everyone feels fairly safe on social in 2015. (These findings also reveal an opening for the network with the strictest, most regularly updated settings.)
Finally, this wouldn’t be a proper study without some negatives.
The number of respondents who say they’ve come across offensive material on social rose from 43 percent to 51 percent in one year, and the number who report suffering negative consequences due to their own posts increased slightly. So more people are experiencing the ugly side of social, but we’re also more familiar with its benefits as consumers, job seekers and, of course, marketers.
What does this mean for PR firms? Blogger Rich Becker argues that the Harris report shows social moving toward the sidelines, but he means this in the agency context: fewer big agency “ninjas” and “gurus” means more responsibility in the hands of PR — or “whomever seems suited to do it” — moving forward.
That’s a good thing, right?