Communities of people with a passion for specific topics can directly impact purchase behavior of others, according to a study. These are not social sites, but rather the next-generation of forums filled with groups of people who have a passion for a specific topic.
The findings, from digital media company Huddler, which powers the forums, identified groups of people as "enthusiast communities," rather than members of social sites like Google+ or Facebook. The content they generate and share with others has, on average, 10 times the reach of Facebook posts.
For each person who creates content and shares it across an enthusiast community, about 266 people interact with the content. In comparison, the average news feed story from a Facebook user reaches 12% of friends. Given the average Facebook user has 229 friends, about 27 people see the post, estimates from Pew Internet & American Life Project research.
Huddler analyzed the purchase power and influence of "enthusiast communities" through product reviews and images, collaborative wiki articles, and sharable knowledge about specific subjects. The survey of 25,000 enthusiast community members reveals more than 53% of those participating -- in any of the 31 communities Huddler powers -- makes purchase decisions based on research shared across these communities. The forums include AVSForum.com, Mothering.com, StyleForum.net and MakeupTalk.com.
Participants typically are affluent and willing to pay more for quality. Some 34% admit to an annual household income of more than $100,000, and nearly half admit to an annual household income of more than $75,000. About 60% said they would pay more for a better-quality product.
Consumers typically find these sites when they are actively searching for information and researching products. More than 53% of respondents said they had made purchases in the past 12 months as a direct result of doing research on an enthusiast community.
It turns out, enthusiasts not only appeal to other community members, but also to casual Internet searchers whome they influence mainly because of their willingness to share their expertise. For example, the AVSForum.com community dedicates content to home theater and cinema buffs. It supports more than 4 million unique visitors monthly, including one million members who have generated 800,000 conversations, and 17 million pieces of content.