As marketers struggle to define the value of social media to their brands, Knowledge Networks findings officially announced today demonstrate that consumers are much more likely to discover new products and brands or refer to social media before making purchase decisions than they were just a year ago.
In fact, the purchase decisions of 38 million 13 to 80 year olds in the U.S. are now influenced in various ways by social media — up 14% in just six months.
The results, previewed at The Advertising Research Foundation’s Audience Measurement 6.0 Symposium yesterday, come from Wave 2 of The Faces of Social Media syndicated research, which provides a consumer-centric view of social media involvement and its effects on 39 product categories.
“Tying consumer interactions back to brands and purchase decisions is essential for marketers, in social media no less than any other platform,” noted Patricia Graham, Chief Strategy Officer of Knowledge Networks. “While we have seen a dramatic rise in key metrics that quantify social media’s influence, we also have observed a wide variation of influence at the category level.”
Making the most of the rise in social media
“Using social media for marketing is like throwing a rock and creating a ripple effect,” observed Graham. “But you need to know the right size rock and right place to throw so the ripples propagate far enough and cover the area you want for your category.”
At Audience Research 6.0, Graham presented essential takeaways for social media marketers:
- Since social media use has reached almost universality, the medium can be rightly considered by marketers to be more than a listening tool.
- Social media today is an activity with a growing number of actors and a large, but predominantly passive audience.
- The variance in findings among product categories emphasizes the need to accurately participate with, and listen to, the active cadre for each brand or category.
- Wider reach can do some good brand building, yet viral multipliers are the active evangelists
Teens and adults who are social media users in 2011 reported high levels of influence:
- 23.1 million discover new brands or products through social media (up 22% from 2010)
- 22.5 million use social media to learn about unfamiliar brands or products (up 9%)
- 17.8 million are strongly influenced in their purchase decisions by opinions in social media (up 19%)
- 15.1 million refer to social media before making purchase decisions (up 29%)
The mobile factor
Consumers are also integrating social media usage with their mobile phone activity. In 20101, 40% of teens and adults who have ever used social media are accessing it through their mobile device – up from 28% versus 6 months ago. This means that roughly 80 million people check social media from a mobile device.
As a result, social media is now a ‘wherever I am’ option, integrated into the mobile-plus-social media users’ shopping experience and habits; 27% compare or check prices via social media, 24% refer to reviews for brands/places/services, and 16% (23% of Boomers) use social media to find coupons or other discounts for local businesses.
The syndicated study, focused on the marketing consequences of social media, is a joint research venture of Knowledge Networks and MediaPost Communications’ Center for Media Research. Information on subscribing is available from Knowledge Networks.
Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, where he delivers malarky-free social, digital and linear media solutions. Join his conversation on Twitter or email Neil to talk about marketing or swap recipes.