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INTERNET USERS TURN TO SOCIAL MEDIA TO SEEK ONE ANOTHER, NOT BRANDS OR PRODUCTS

83% of online population, ages 13 to 54, use social media, says new Knowledge Networks report; 47% participate weekly

Menlo Park, CA; May 20, 2009: A new report by Knowledge Networks gives advertisers, marketers and researchers a clearer picture of the motivations and attitudes of social media users – with sometimes-surprising results. While 83% of the Internet population (ages 13 to 54) participates in social media – 47% on a weekly basis – less than 5% of social media users regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions in any of nine product/service categories. In addition, only 16% of social media users say they are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites.

Proportion of Social Media Users Who Turn to Social Media
When Making Purchase Decisions
(by Listed Product/Service Category & Frequency)
  "Regularly" turn to social media "Sometimes" turn to social media
Travel or travel services 4% 24%
Banks or financial services 4% 10%
Clothes or shoes 3% 23%
Eating out or restaurants 3% 21%
Cell/mobile phones and service 2% 21%
Personal care products 3% 15%
Cars or trucks 2% 15%
Groceries or food 2% 13%
Prescription or OTC drugs 1% 10%
 
"How often do you refer to social media websites or features as a resource for information, reviews, or recommendations when in the market for [category]?" Base: Social media users (N = 418)

The study, How People Use® Social Media, was produced as part of The Home Technology Monitor™, a service that provides highly accurate views of which media technologies people own or have access to, as well as how they are integrating those technologies into their everyday lives. The research was conducted from March 10 through 16, 2009, among 502 members of KnowledgePanel®, the only online panel based on a representative sample of the full U.S. population.

"Social media use" was defined as having visited any one of 27 social sites (see list at end of release) or having used social features on other sites. Participation in social media is indeed widespread among those 13 to 54; but when Knowledge Networks asked users whether they regularly turn to these sites when trying to make a purchase decision, the highest percentages among nine categories were 4%, for travel and banks/financial services. Responses for clothes/shoes, restaurants, mobile phone services and five other categories ranged from 1% to 3% (see table).

Almost two thirds (63%) of social media users agree that ads are a "fair price to pay" for use of these sites and features; but a much smaller proportion (16%) say they are more likely to buy from advertising brands. "Staying connected" – to friends and family, as well as meeting new people – is by far what is "most liked" (54%) about participating in social media.

The study also shows that:

  • 34 percent of social media users report using these sites or features more often now compared to a year ago, while 18% said they use them less
  • just 1% of the total online population – and the same proportion of social media participants – uses Twitter once a week or more
  • 60% of social media participants say they only access these sites and features at home

In addition, the report covers such topics as how social media use affects media choice, feelings about advertising on social media, and differences between users and non-users of social media.

"Our findings show that marketers need to be prudent and people-centric in how they approach social media," said David Tice, Vice President and Group Account Director, Knowledge Networks. "Social media users do not have a strong association between these sites and purchase decisions; they see them as being more about personal connection – so finding ways to embrace that powerful function is key. The fact that they are using social media more now than a year ago is a strong indicator that the influence of these sites and features is here to stay."

Knowledge Networks specializes in solving complex, high-impact problems, providing extraordinary quality and service to leaders in government, academia, and business. We work closely with clients to create sound public policies, accurate social science research, healthy consumer-brand connections, and effective marketing and advertising. We have established respected practices in government & academic studies, media, marketing, and advertising. KN excels in study design, analytics, and custom panel creation; we deliver affordable, statistically valid online research through KnowledgePanel® – the only available probability selected, nationally representative Internet panel.

Definition: For the purposes of this study, social media users were defined as those who ever use any of 27 pre-specified websites commonly categorized as social media sites, or those who have used social media features on other websites that are not primarily social media sites. The list of 27 pre-specified social media sites were:

Bebo.com
Blackplanet.com
Cafemom.com
Classmates.com
ClubPenguin.com
Del.icio.us
Digg.com
Facebook.com
Flickr.com

Flixster.com
Friendster.com
Hi5.com
Imeem.com
Last.fm
Live.com
LinkedIn.com
Livejournal.com
Myspace.com

Myyearbook.com
Ning.com
Picasa.com
Plaxo.com
Reddit.com
Reunion.com
Tagged.com
Twitter.com
YouTube.com

For more information, contact:

David Stanton
908 497-8040
Email

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