A clear majority (62%) of American consumers who use social media says it has “no influence at all” on their purchase decisions, according to a new poll of over 18,000 U.S. adults conducted by Gallup. That compares to 30% who said it has “some influence,” and just 5% who said it has a “great deal of influence.”
Interestingly even consumers who engage with brands on social media often claim it has no influence on their purchase decisions: among consumers who reported liking or following a company, 34% said social media has “no influence at all” on purchase decisions, and 53% said it has “some influence.”
The reasons for using social media reported by Gallup respondents are just about what you’d expect: 94% said they use it to connect with friends and family, compared to just 29% who follow trends or find product reviews and information, and 20% who said they write comments and product reviews.
It’s worth noting that trend lines suggest some of these attitudes may be changing, albeit pretty slowly: among Millennials “only” 48% said social media wasn’t a factor in purchase decisions, while 43% said it has “some influence” and 7% said it has “a great deal of influence.”
In case anyone missed the point, Gallup drove it home in pretty brutal fashion: “Gallup research shows that consumers are much more likely to turn to friends, family members, and experts when seeking advice about companies, brands, products, or services. Company-sponsored Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have almost no persuasive power.” Indeed, just as with traditional forms of marketing and advertising, “consumers are highly adept at tuning out brand-related Facebook and Twitter content. These channels do not motivate prospective customers to consider trying a brand or recommending a brand to others. ”
However Gallup didn’t just pound away at the bad news, offering some actionable insights as well. For one thing, as it’s clear that social media doesn’t work for recruiting new customers directly, “if companies want to acquire new customers, their best bet is to engage their existing customers and inspire them to advocate on their behalf.”
Furthermore, Gallup opines, “any effort to engage customers must take place through both offline and online channels, as Gallup has consistently found that customer engagement is influenced in large part by how well a company aligns all of its touchpoints. Social media do not exist in a vacuum, and consumers rarely interact with companies through these channels alone.”