American Consumers Want A Dialog With Business

According to the 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, an online survey by Opinion Research Corporation among a representative U.S. sample of 1,048 adults, comprising "new media users," 44% of American new media users are searching for, sharing or discussing information about corporate responsibility (CR) efforts and programs and are highly confident they can have an effect on business.

New media is defined in this study as dialogue among individuals or groups by way of technology-facilitated channels, such as social networks (e.g., Facebook); blogs; microblogs (e.g., Twitter); online games; mobile devices; photo-, audioand video-sharing sites (e.g., Flickr, iTunes,YouTube); message boards; etc. In some instances we also include Web sites and email.  

62% of users polled believe they can influence business decisions by voicing opinions via new media channels. About a quarter have contributed their point-of-view on an issue (24%) or contacted a company directly (23%). 74% expect companies to join conversations about their corporate responsibility practices happening on new media.

New media users are even more likely to bypass dialogue for action:  30% have made a purchase based on POSITIVE information learned about a product, company or brand; 23% have switched brands or boycotted a company based on NEGATIVE information learned about a product, company or brand. 

Consumers are most interested in information that will inform their purchasing decisions. Respondents said they want companies to tell them what is in products and how they are made (85%) and provide additional details about information, labels and claims shared offline (e.g., in the store, on the package, in an advertisement) (83%). 

Jonathan Yohannan, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Cone, says "Consumers are using new media channels to inform purchase decisions, yet are not always stopping to engage in dialogue... There is an opportunity to engage them beyond information-seeking behavior... "

Overall, consumers show strong signs of empowerment, comfort and trust with corporate responsibility communications in new media. 75% of new media users say it is an effective way to learn about CR efforts, 65% believe they know where to look for such information and 47% think companies are transparent and honest when talking about CR efforts through new media channels.  

Consumers are relying largely on Web channels such as Web sites (27%) and email (22%) to explore CR, indicating channels that foster a dialogue and deeper engagement, such as social networks (15%) and blogs (11%), are being underutilized. 

Yohannan continued "Companies need to leverage traditional channels to drive people to places where conversations can happen in real-time... to enhance reputation, build loyalty and even lead to business innovation." 

From  2009 cone consumer new media study  corporate responsibility fact sheet:  

Business Issues Consumers Want Companies To Address Through New Media Channels: 


% of Respondents

Environment (e.g., recycling, environmentally sound packaging)


Health and wellness (e.g., obesity, nutrition)


Safety (e.g., lead- or bpa-free products)


Ethics (e.g., governance, executive compensation)


Human rights (e.g., child labor, fair wages)


Source: 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, January 2009   


Actions Taken As A Result Of Information About Corporate Responsibility Efforts And Business Issues


% of Respondents

Made a purchase based on positive information learned about a product, company or brand


Contributed my point-of-view on an issue


Switched brands or boycotted a company based on negative information learned about a product, company or brand


Contacted a company directly to share feedback or grievances


Distributed information about an issue to my friends and contacts


Followed a an important conversation related to a business issue


Source: 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, January 2009   


Americans' Beliefs And Expectations About Corporate Responsibility In New Media Channels


% of Respondents

An effective way for me to learn about corporate responsibility efforts


Expect companies to join conversations about their corporate responsibility practices 


Know where to look if seeking additional information about corporate responsibility efforts


Can influence a company's corporate responsibility decisions and practices by voicing my opinions


Feel companies are transparent and honest when it comes to talking about their corporate responsibility efforts using new media


Source: 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, January 2009   


American's Use Of New Media Sites And Tools


% of Respondents   

Two or more times a week


One-two times a month


A few times a year


Once a week




Source: 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, January 2009   


Channels Used To Search For, Share Or Discuss Information About Corporate Responsibility Efforts And Programs   


% of Respondents







Social networks


Message boards




Online games


Mobile devices


Photo, audio or video sharing sites




Source: 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, January 2009   

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3 comments about "American Consumers Want A Dialog With Business".
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  1. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, January 22, 2010 at 8:27 a.m.

    That such a percentage of consumers is "highly confident they can have an effect on business" is now a brand's biggest challenge (and opportunity) for corporate social responsibility. Consumers want it and are looking under the covers at what brands are up to. They also know a "cause" or "green" wash when they see it - so brands can't take this lightly and just stick a toe in the water with a single highly publicized one-off initiative. It's a VERY exciting time for those of us monitoring consumer behavior on this front, as they are asking brands to step up to the plate - majorly!

  2. Andrea List from Cone, January 22, 2010 at 10:52 a.m.

    Thanks for the great article about our research (which is actually even more current than it is cited - it’s from October of 2009). And, Andrea Learned is right – new media isn’t something brands can afford to take lightly. It presents companies with a tremendous opportunity to engage with consumers around their CR efforts, as both new media and CR are rooted in transparency, open dialogue and collective efforts to improve upon the status quo. But a new media presence must have the right mix of strategy, messaging and audience to be successful.

    We look forward to seeing these consumer engagement stats increase when we launch the 2010 version later this year.

  3. Barry Dennis from netweb/Omni, January 22, 2010 at 12:58 p.m.

    The implication of the 44% New Media users is that 56% didn't use New Media. Could that be correct?
    Another note is that 27% used Email to communicate concerns, not websites.
    Email to whom? Friends? Business?
    The logical place to express concern or "spread the word" I would have thought was Social, but not so, it appears.
    That Social wasn't used more somehow is a disconnexct from the Expectations part of the Survey, in which high percentages expressed a desire for companies to be transparent in their commjnications and duties. Either the companies aren't using Social as much as they should to express themselves and communicate, or Social Users aren't reaching out to companies as much as they have indicated they are.

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