Social Media Not Preferred Recommendation Resource

Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or family remain the most influential resource on advice for those looking to purchase products and services, but overall, search engines are also becoming a trusted source.

Young and highly educated consumers say online sources influence their buying decisions at a higher rate compared with the rest of the population, but social media resides down at the bottom of the list, according to a recent survey. Overall, consumers rely less on resources in social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace, according to a survey from Opinion Research Co., sponsored by ARAnet.

"Consumption of media will be increasingly online," says Scott Severson, president of survey sponsor ARAnet. "We are not seeing any indication that online media consumption will slow."

Severson believes companies need to have more than one way to reach consumers online because not all will want to have contact via email or social sites. Companies will need search engine optimization (SEO) and paid-search campaign strategies, too. In other words, one campaign message will not resonate with all consumers the same way.

Depending on the relationship with the company, Severson says he prefers email marketing. It helps him build a relationship with the brands that know his preferences. Since they know Severson's likes and dislikes, the brands send him relevant information. Severson also is open to building relationships with brands in social media, especially when the site makes him aware of companies he didn't know.

When consumers were asked to rate the importance of 14 information sources before deciding on goods and services to buy, younger survey participants between the ages of 18 and 34 and highly educated Americans said they more often look online to search engines, articles, ads, email offerings and social media to find the answers.

Overall, among survey participants, 49% who bring home annual salaries of $75,000 or more chose search engines as the preferred choice vs. 39% for all respondents. But break that down into participants between the ages of 25 and 34, and about 50% say they prefer search engines.

For the age group 25 to 34, online articles are another trusted source of information, at 39% vs. 28%, respectively. Younger consumers also appreciate information in emails from retailers or manufacturers, at 32% compared with 20% for all respondents.

Oddly, younger consumers believe online ads and social media have less influence than search, articles and emails from retailers or manufacturers. In the study, 30% of consumers age 25 to 34 believe online ads are influential, compared with and 31% for social media.

Overall, most people participating in the survey -- 59% -- choose personal advice from friends or family members; followed by TV news or other broadcasts at 40%; search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo or Ask at 39%; TV ads, 36%; articles in newspapers or magazines, 33%; newspapers or magazines ads, 31%; online articles, 28%; and radio news or other broadcasts ads, 25%.

The remainder of the breakdown follows. Direct mail came in at 24%; radio ads, 20%; emails from retailers or manufacturers, 20%; online ads, 19%; messages or posts on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or MySpace, 18 percent; and billboards, 15%.

The results are based on 1,029 interviews conducted by Opinion Research Corp. online from Jan. 7-8, 2010 among a demographically representative U.S. sample of adults 18 years of age or older.

8 comments about "Social Media Not Preferred Recommendation Resource".
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  1. Patricia Graham from Knowledge Networks, February 22, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.

    Laurie, insightful article on a much debated topic.

    At Knowledge Networks we are examining the marketing effects of Social Media on a category level via a syndicated offering. Would be interested to hear about the quantitative information voids that others interested in Social Media see.

  2. Kevin Horne from Verizon, February 22, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.

    If the question that was asked was truly "rate the importance of 14 information sources," then the interpretation of "influence" or "recommendation" is taking it too far. Seems like the intent of the survey, or the outcome of the survey, or both, didnt match what the customer was asked. Other than saying "most people use search engines to get product information according to a recent survey" i don't know what else can be said about this.

  3. Roger Harris from Harris Social Media, February 22, 2010 at 3:15 p.m.

    I agree with Kevin that the results seem over-interpreted. And Laurie, while I appreciate the post, I think the headline is a bit misleading, when so many other channels were reported upon besides social media. I think that you could have said that social media is not the primary source of information for products and services among the survey population, but not much more than that.

  4. Liza Hausman, February 22, 2010 at 3:37 p.m.

    I think this research confuses "channels" and "sources". Your friends and family and network are a source, you might use a social "channel" to get information from them, or you might use your phone as a "channel". If friends and family are a #1 source than social will continue to rise as a key "channel" for accessing that important information.

  5. Chase Mcmichael from, February 22, 2010 at 7:19 p.m.

    Lisa is right about "channels" and "sources" . There is different behavior at play when purchasing a high dollar product vs. the sharing of content / entertainment. People that buy Sony products can be part of an implicit community however many may not have another friend connection around that product to say they are influenced by their friends. The following of Apple products, could be a more social product over others making that brand more WOM driver. WOM vs search if you know someone and ask them what you think this will rank higher over what your read but I like Consumer Reports too!

  6. Nelson Yuen from Stereotypical Mid Sized Services Corp., February 22, 2010 at 11:56 p.m.

    I've mentioned this before in another post: social media and search engines attack attack different aspects of the buying cycle. (Not that there isn't overlap) but social media tends to initiate conversations between consumers and brands while search engines traditionally attack the middle to late stages of the buying cycle. Notice that I ONLY mentioned social media? That's also because you have to distinguish between "online ads" to social media. I don't think you should group the two together.

    It isn't so much one is preferred over another, rather each channel indicates a different purchasing intent with different characteristics. Maybe social media tends to introduce products better VS search engines do a great job of "presenting" unbiased information for consumers displaying high purchasing intent???

  7. Bryon Sheffield from BPS, February 23, 2010 at 7:36 a.m.

    This is a joke, right?

    While I think it will continue to be a useful conversation to discuss the influence of "channels" on consumer intent, I am patently opposed to drawing any conclusions from a survey that is:

    A. Sponsored by a company that appears to have a vested interest in showing that "online ads" and offline media are more influential AND

    B. only representing 0.00047% of the US internet-using population (give or take 220M). Say what you will about sampling methodology and demographic coverage, etc...that is nowhere near statistically significant in my book.

    Presenting findings like this as if they are meaningful and somehow directionally relevant seems irresponsible.

  8. Wali Al-amin from Amin & Associates, February 23, 2010 at 4:30 p.m.

    The socialnetwork is growing to be a market on the move it may take some realize it. The communication between people has always been the secret to successful businesses, markets for ages. Find way the to display the message to get most benefit from a skill effect. I am make all efforts to find best effective tool to get it in front of the purchasing customers to serve them. My Shopping Network: http:www.BuyFromMySite.Com/10442wal.

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