Study: Consumers Don't Fully Understand Social Media, Search


Brand marketers take for granted that most consumers know the ins and outs of social media and search engines, but a study released Wednesday reveals that this is untrue.

Some 70% of adults online know how to post to a Facebook wall, but only 54% understand how Facebook generates revenue. It may seem incidental, but a better understanding would produce higher engagement and conversion rates.

Men demonstrate a higher understanding of Facebook's monetization strategies at 57%, versus women at 51%, according to findings from The Search Agency and Harris Interactive's study "2012 Online User Behavior and Engagement," which analyzes consumer behavior and knowledge around social networks and search engines.

The findings can help marketers create better strategies to interact with potential and existing customers. For example, more online men -- 37% -- know the character length of a tweet, compared with 27% of women. When it comes to Pinterest, 48% of women know what it means to "pin" something online, compared with 42% of men.



When asked how search engines make money, nearly 29% of survey respondents believe brands pay annual dues for use, while 20% believe that users pay for premium search features. More than one-third of U.S. online adults believe search engines sell users' personal data to marketers

About 22% of survey respondents click on paid-search ads, but results show behavioral variations by region and age. Breaking down clicks by U.S. region shows 29% in the South, 20% in the Northeast, 19% in the West, and 17% in the Midwest.

Millennials are nearly twice as likely to click on search engine ads compared with their older counterparts. About 30% of Americans ages 18-34 indicate they click on search engine ads, which is nearly double the rate of Americans age 35+ at 18%.

Just more than three-quarters of the U.S. online population realizes that advertising is a source of income for search engines.

A little more than 2,000 adults participated between Aug. 14 and 16, 2012 in the online U.S. survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Search Agency.

3 comments about "Study: Consumers Don't Fully Understand Social Media, Search".
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  1. Nick D from ___, January 9, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.

    "It may seem incidental, but a better understanding [of Facebook's monetisation strategy] would produce higher engagement and conversion rates."

    Care to elaborate on where that broad statement comes from? Understanding how Facebook is making money from them might well turn some people off Facebook altogether; either way, there's rather more nuance to it than you suggest

  2. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, January 9, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.

    Thanks for posting, Nick. It's conjecture on my part. Knowing the process might turn off some people, but in my opinion, consumers who understand processes are more likely to participate. I look at it similar to the education cycle in marketing technology. The more marketers understand a specific technology, the more likely they will use it if they think it can work for their company. Care to elaborate on the nuances?

  3. Thorsten Rhode from marqueteer, January 9, 2013 at 5:38 p.m.

    Most of these findinds are 'duh'. (IMHO.) But it's nevertheless good to see the extent of the misperceptions, misunderstandings and plain 'not-knowing'. It would be interesting to know how much this (perceived) ignorance bothers the general public (if at all). That could be used to extrapolate how much 'a better understanding' would contribute to higher engagement.

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