The impact of social networks on the purchase behavior of American consumers is growing steadily. Harnessing such platforms is inevitable for search marketing agencies, according to Performics, the search marketing arm of Publicis Groupe.
The study, conducted by ROI Research for Performics, is based on the responses of 3 000 U.S. users/consumers "who access at least one social network regularly" and compares to a previous report issued in October 2009.
Called "S-Net (The Impact of Social Media)", it looks at how various consumer segments relate to social networks on a daily basis, with a special emphasis on purchase behaviors around different types of products and in relation to other media channels.
Basics first. Some 80% of respondents said they have an active Facebook account, versus 71% in October 2009, and 23% of those without an account yet reported they planned to join within the next six months.
Thanks to networking sites, 67% of respondents have reconnected with people they would have lost track with or not even looked for otherwise. This has an impact on purchasing influence, evidently, as it increases the span of connections the lead is likely to listen to.
As for Twitter access, 39% of users said they responded to other people's tweets at least once a week.
Mobile access via browser or apps has increased substantially, with now 32% using their phones to go to Facebook, compared with 26% in October 2009, or a 23% jump over the October 2009 to April 2010 period. YouTube mobile access growth came in second with a 22% rise, from 18% to 22% and Twitter mobile access edged third with a 15% increase to 30% from 26% previously.
That brings daily mobile access to Facebook and/or Twitter to 30% of respondents.
Daina Middleton, CEO of Performics said: "More than a third of all respondents reported using a search engine to further learn after seeing an ad on a social networking site, for example, and more than a third think social networking sites are good sources of information about companies and products."
Again, the impact of their friends' choices as fans, followers or, more recently, "likers" is crucial, as 32% of respondents declared following their friends' stances as regards companies and brands.
Unchanged from October 2009, interest for getting more interaction with and on companies and products stands at 31%.
More importantly, one third of respondents considered themselves "better valued customers" when interacting with brands and products on Facebook.
Scott Haiges, president of ROI Research remarked that "respondents expressed a strong desire to get more printable coupons [49%], notifications of sales and special deals [46%], and information about new products [35%] from companies or products on Facebook, and this rings truer in some industries more than others."
The Twitter Conversion Cycle Is Shorter
Regarding Twitter, the study did not say if the respondents were asked about making searches on the micro-blogging platform. It did focus on brand awareness and recommendation though.
Just over half of respondents (53%, to be precise, a slight drop from 55% in October 2009), said they recommended companies and/or products in their tweets, with 48% of them delivering on their intentions and buying the brand/company's products.
A steady 46% actually posted ad links for the company/products and 43% responded to the brands/companies' calls for action by attending sponsored events.
Overall, when discussing about a brand/company/product on Twitter, one third of respondents share their opinion, another third ask for a product service and recommendation and the last third replies by actually making the recommendation.
Presumably due to the nature of the platform, the purchasing cycle is more viral and shorter: the call for action can translate easily into a buying act.
Recommendation Levels By Verticals
Going further into the mechanism of brand/company/product recommendation by verticals, the study reveals that 49% of respondents use social sites to ask for advice on their purchases in electronics. Then comes healthcare/pharma buys at 47%, level with home furnishings, and followed by financial services and telecommuncations - both at 42%. Appliances follow at 41%, auto 38%, consumer goods at 29%, apparel at 24%, entertainment at 23% and finally, travel, at 22%.
It seems that looking for information on social sites is becoming a routine, at least in some industries.
As EConsultancy put it: "social media might help you convert awareness into action" but you have to know how to interact, share the brand love with your fans and drive them to influence their entourage to buy your product, your brand.
Finally, a quick thought to marketers out there: Facebook's universal "like" button is both easy to use for prospects/consumers as it is for hackers and the final worth and validity of the tool could well be revalued sooner or later...
As a consumer, to what extent do social sites influence your purchasing habits and/or choices?
Same question if you're a brand/company. So how can you apply your personal consumer-angled answer to support your social media effort?
Update 06/09/2010: the company corrected the time frame in the 4th paragraph to "six months" versus "one-month" as initially reported.