|According to a recent media survey with 2012 social media spending at an estimated $4.8 billion (BIA/Kelsey), brands are looking for new ways to capture the fragmented attention of consumers. The survey of online adults aged 18 or older to learn how independent web audiences interact with and use social media, how blogs and bloggers influence purchase decisions, and the impact of socially enabled display advertising revealed that both advertisers and publishers have opportunities to leverage social platforms to further engage with their followers and consumers.
Key findings from the study show that:
• Overall, one-half of female respondents, including 58.6 per cent of mums, visit social media sites at least a few times per day, versus one-third of men.
• 62.0 per cent of independent web users "like" or follow their favourite content sites on social media
• Overall 49.1 per cent of respondents "like" or follow brands on social media. Two-fifths never do
• Of respondents who visit or read blogs, 65.5 per cent say a brand mention or promotion within context of the blog influences their purchasing decisions
• 25.4 per cent of all respondents, and 31.7 of mums, say they are likely to follow a brand on social media if the brand is promoted in an online ad
76.3 per cent of survey respondents visit social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and foursquare. 41.7 per cent are "highly active" social media users and visit social sites at least a few times per day.
49.0 per cent of female respondents visit social media sites at least a few times per day, versus 34.0 per cent of men. Younger respondents are more likely than older respondents to be frequent social media users. It's the 35-54 years segment that has the largest gap between the genders when it comes to being active social media users.
Despite heavy social media usage, 37.1 per cent of respondents say they spend all or most of their online time on content sites (i.e., sports, news, educational, entertainment sites, etc.) versus 16.0 per cent who say their time is primarily spent on social media sites. Interestingly, 58.0 per cent of respondents with a household income of $75,000 or more say they spend most or all of their online time with content sites.
Overall, 62.0 per cent of independent web users frequently or occasionally "like" or follow their favourite content sites on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Moms are also heavy users in this regard: 70.6 per cent either frequently (27.4 per cent) or occasionally (43.2 per cent) follow content sites in the social realm.
Respondents who like or follow content sites on social media have several reasons for doing so. 44.0 per cent of women and 30.7 per cent of men say "it's a good way for me to keep up with the latest content." Other reasons include sharing content with family and friends, sharing personal opinions or comments, seeing what other fans or followers are saying about the content, and interacting with the sites' authors and contributors. Interestingly, moms are much more likely than both men and other women who are not moms to cite the opportunity to interact with a websites' authors or contributors as a reason to follow content sites on social media.
49.1 per cent of respondents say they either frequently or occasionally "like" or follow brand name products or services on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
At 39.3 per cent overall, the ability to show brand support via a "like" or a follow is the most often cited reason by respondents for engaging with a brand on social media. Staying current with the brand's latest offerings is also a top reason. Surprisingly, women who are not moms most frequently cite access to special offers, coupons and/or promotions as a reason to follow a brand in the social media space.
Overall, 57.0 per cent of respondents say they read blogs. The study found that blogs influence purchase behaviour: 65.5 per cent of respondents who visit or read blogs say their purchasing decisions are influenced if the author or contributor mentions or promotes a brand within the blog's content. The numbers spike dramatically with respondents aged 18-34, as four-fifths of men and women say bloggers can be very or somewhat influential in shaping product or service purchasing decisions.
46.2 per cent of all respondents say recommendations made by social media friends and followers are either very or somewhat influential with regards to brand preferences and/or purchasing decisions. 60.0 per cent of respondents aged 35-44 say social media friends and followers impact their brand preferences and purchasing decisions.
Overall, 25.4 per cent of all respondents are either very or somewhat likely to follow a brand-name product or service on Facebook, Twitter and/or other social media if they see it promoted in an online advertising message displayed on a content site.
Younger respondents outpace older segments in their likelihood to follow brands via a social extension within a display ad. Respondents aged 55 or older are the least social in this regard: 62.8 per cent of women and 73.3 per cent of men say it is either somewhat or very unlikely they would follow a brand socially via a promotion within an online ad.
The findings of the study, concludes the report, "... illustrate a core behaviour of the evolving social media landscape: audiences thrive on authentic conversations. Web publishers and advertisers that recognize this basic notion, and ensure it is echoed in all their social initiatives, will reap the most success with their efforts... "