The last couple months have brought a wave of data suggesting that a substantial proportion of online social network members use their profiles to engage with brands in some way -- including recommending or criticizing a product or service to other people, and engaging with the brand itself for customer service issues. In addition to confirming many of these earlier findings, the latest study, sponsored by Performics and performed by ROI Research, also found that a good number of social net users want more online offers and information from brands.
The survey of 3,000 U.S. social network users found that 40% use social sites to connect with brands and products, including 37% who said they learned about a new product or service from a social networking site; zeroing in on specific social networks, 32% of Twitter users said they re-tweet content provided by a company or product, and 50% of Facebook users click on Facebook ads to "like" a brand. 90% of Facebook users said at least some of the companies or products they're fans of have done a good job providing relevant content, and one out of three said most or all of the companies or products were doing a good job. Meanwhile 32% of respondents said they have used social networks to recommend a product or service to friends.
Furthermore, there appears to be significant demand for more content and engagement with brands via online social networks. The same survey found 49% wanted more downloadable coupons, 46% wanted more notifications of sales and special deals, and 35% wanted more information about new products from companies or products on Facebook.
I am usually skeptical about the results of any one study, but focusing in on one figure in particular -- the 32% of respondents said they have used social networks to recommend a product or service -- we now have similar data for social network brand engagement from a series of surveys, conducted by different research outfits. Here's a quick review:
· Two days ago I wrote about a Harris Interactive poll of 2,131 U.S. social net users which found 34% turned to social media to air their feelings -- positive or negative -- about a company, brand or product. 26% complain, 23% speak positively, and 19% give reviews or recs. 38% of all social net users express preferences specifically to influence others (covering other subject matter in addition to brands). 45% said opinions expressed by friends or peers on social network sites have a "great deal or fair amount" of influence.
· In April a survey of 1,040 American adults by Opinion Research for the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. found that 20% of respondents had used social media to share a negative experience with a brand or service.
· Last year a survey by WorkPlace Media found 25% of employed consumers have recommended a business or a product on a social net, and 33% have received a rec -- although just 18% actually acted on it.
Juxtaposing these figures and crunching them in a very non-scientific fashion, my gut feeling is that about 25%-30% U.S. adults who use social networks are actively recommending and/or criticizing brands online, surrounded by a halo of another 10% who form a passive audience for these recommendations and criticisms (this breakdown assumes that everyone in that active 25%-30% is also receiving recommendations or criticisms).
It's worth noting this isn't just idle talk. As one might expect, the process of becoming a fan or follower is correlated with an increase in likelihood to recommend and buy that brand. In March a survey of over 1,500 consumers by Chadwick Martin Bailey found 60% of Facebook users who are fans of a brand and 79% of Twitter users who follow a brand are more likely to recommend the brand to friends since becoming a fan/follower; meanwhile 51% of Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to buy a brand since they became a fan or follower.