In between posting updates about their lives, fascinating or otherwise, users of social media seem to have plenty of time to opine about brands. In a Harris Poll released this week, 34 percent of adults who use social media said they have employed them "as an outlet to rant or rave about a company, brand or product."
Happily for marketers, the polling (conducted in April) found near parity between the number of social-media users who employ those venues to express "my dissatisfaction with a company, brand or product" (26 percent) and those who use them to hold forth about "the companies, brands or products I like" (23 percent).
Many online adults aren't just blowing off steam when they launch these opinions into cyberspace. Among all online adults in the survey (i.e., not just those who use social media), 38 percent said they "aim to influence others when I express my preferences online."
Another part of the survey indicated where online opinion stands in the hierarchy of sources that "influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product." In a class by itself (cited by 71 percent as exerting a "great deal" or "fair amount" of influence) was "reviews from family members or friends." "Reviews in newspapers or magazine articles" was a distant runner-up (46 percent), with "reviews from friends or people I follow on social networking sites" right behind (45 percent). Fewer (33 percent) said "reviews on blogs or message boards" exert a great deal or fair amount of influence on their use or non-use of a given company, brand or product. (The latter two figures refer to respondents who use social media, while the previous two refer to all respondents who go online.)
As you'd expect, young adults are more likely than their elders to say opinions encountered via social media are influential in this way. Among those who use social media, 50 percent of 18-34-year-olds, vs. 37 percent of 55-plusers, said "reviews from friends or people I follow on social networking sites" sway their interaction with companies, brands and products.