The Original Social Network

Advertisers are starting to question the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, debating the overall effectiveness of social media marketing. The latest example is General Motors' decision to cancel its $10 million Facebook advertising budget due to unsatisfactory returns and an overall ineffectiveness of their ads on the social networking site. 

With marketer’s budgets under closer scrutiny, there is a high demand for measurement and proof of performance - important things that many social networks have yet to provide. Recent research shows consumers are less likely to trust and respond to ads that appear on sites the collect their personal data. This is an issue that complicates social media marketing’s overall goal to effectively target and reach their vast user base. Advertisers that seek to take advantage of word of mouth marketing need to consider alternate channels for social efforts, including the most established network for referrals, recommendations and discussion -- the office water cooler.

In Work we Trust

Nielsen recently conducted research we commissioned on the office environment, and, specifically, on the amount of trust people have in co-workers’ recommendations. The results from more than 600 respondents in the U.S. and Canada show that more than 83% of working adults trust their co-workers' recommendations when considering a product or service. 

Among the most trusting were women 35-49 years old. This group reported that their trust in co-workers, subordinates or the boss (90%) was slightly higher than the trust they had in their friends (89%) or, surprisingly, their spouse/significant other (87%). In fact, among all adults surveyed, 8% reported a lack of trust or uncertainty when receiving recommendations from their spouse or significant other -– this was over three times higher than for information received from their co-workers.  

Base: Women 35-49 Trust Recommendations From

Co-workers (peers) 85%

Boss / Supervisor 74%

Subordinates 72%

Total (Any) 90%

Affluent Women Most Trustful of Peers at Work

Affluent women in the workplace have some of the most social networking impact. Consider this, Nielsen reports that these women discuss technology products and services over 15 times a week. The office accounts for the majority of those discussions (44%) with only 33% reporting the same for home (“other” accounts for the remaining 22%). Like most women, these affluent women have a lot of trust in the people they work with (over 91%) with the most trust among their peers (only 71% trust recommendations from their subordinates).

Base: Affluent Women Trust Recommendations From

Co-workers (peers) 87%

Boss / Supervisor 78%

Subordinates 71%

Total (Any) 91%

Base: Affluent Women Weekly # of Technology Discussions Weekly # of Financial Discussions

At Work 6.9 5.5

At Home 5.2 2.7

Other 3.5 6.5

Source: Nielsen Oct. 2011 

Word Spreads

The ability to reach people in the workplace cannot be overestimated. Word spreads quickly with so many people in such close proximity for so many hours every day (affluents report giving advice for personal products to co-workers more often than to friends or family). In addition, the co-workers they share recommendations with will provide exponential reach through their own online and offline networks and connections. 

Base: Affluent Adults Give Personal Product Give Personal Product

Advice to Friends/Family Advice to Co-Workers

Percentage that reach 5+ people 67% 74%

Source: Captivate Office Pulse 

Base: Adults 18+ Total White Collar Employees Affluent Employees

Avg. # LinkedIn Connections 113 155

Avg. # Followers (Twitter)   84   79

Avg. # Facebook Friends 288 249

Source: Captivate Office Pulse

Marketers and advertisers need to try and test all social networking options whenever possible; but if measurement, impact and performance are key goals, they should never forget the power of the humble office water cooler. 

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1 comment about "The Original Social Network ".
  1. Gray Hammond from Quire , June 13, 2012 at 10:57 a.m.
    90%, 89% and 87% are statistically equal on a sample this small. There's no difference between work vs. others.