Burst Media, an online media company and wholly owned subsidiary of blinkx PLC, today released the results of a survey covering the social media preferences, habits and actions of independent web audiences. Conducted in May, the study of 1,453 U.S. online adults aged 18 or older found that three-quarters (76.3 percent) of respondents visit social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and foursquare--though it's clear that women are more active social media users than men. One-half (49.0 percent) of female respondents visit social media sites at least a few times per day, versus just one-third (34.0 percent) of men.
"With tweets buzzing onto our phones by the minute and every daily occurrence becoming fodder for Facebook, our survey has confirmed just how deeply engaged we are with social media," said Mark Kaefer, marketing director, Burst Media. "And for some audience segments, such as moms, social media is a constant presence in daily life. Given this close relationship between consumers and their online communities, our study also found many opportunities for both online advertisers and web publishers to inject social vehicles into their efforts to drive user engagement."
While previous generations could sport brand-name sneakers or a radio station sticker to tout their pet brands, the growth of social media has given us all personal billboards begging to be branded. The Burst study found that one-half (49 percent) of respondents proudly display brand loyalty online, happy to frequently or occasionally "like" or follow brand-name products on social media for their whole virtual world to see.
Women lead the way in this consumer-conscious corner of social media as well, with 58 percent of moms following brands on social media. Although they may trade the diapers for designer jeans, 58 percent of all 18-34 year old men and women also "like" their favorite labels and retailers on social media, giving us a glimpse at the future of brand advertising as each new generation becomes increasingly wired.
What drives these casual consumers to become official online fans varies from the abstract to the practical. Proving that social media is still very much about defining yourself through every interaction, the most often cited reason for following a brand on social media is to show support for it (39.3 percent) -- when just buying a designer handbag isn't enough, declare your ties to the high-end brand with a "like."
On the more practical end, staying current with the latest product and/or service offerings is another top reason to follow a brand in social media, where the latest news is immediately and conveniently in your feed-- especially true for moms (50 percent), who are too busy to seek out every product update across the Web. Interestingly, the coupon-clipping mom stereotype may soon give way to the savings-savvy stylista: women who are not moms most frequently cite access to special offers, coupons and/or promotions as a reason to follow brands on social media: 46.7 percent versus 40 percent (moms) and 19.4 percent (men).
Just how do these Wi-Fi window shoppers decide which brands are worthy of a follow or an actual purchase? Among blog readers, the Burst study found that bloggers can be very influential in shaping their audience's purchasing decisions--two-thirds (65.5 percent) say a brand mention or promotion by a blog author is an influence on their retail rituals. The numbers spike dramatically with 18-34 year-old respondents (81.2 percent of men; 79.8 percent of women), who are always on the lookout for the next hot trend from a cutting-edge correspondent before it goes mainstream. Not to be left behind, 3-in-4 (74.4 percent) moms who read blogs say their purchasing decisions are shaped by a blogger's mention or promotion of a brand.
Beyond basic blogging, the Web publishers who author content sites have a distinct opportunity to engage audiences through social platforms. A majority (62.0 percent) of respondents frequently or occasionally follow their favorite content sites on Facebook, Twitter and other social media--including 70.6 percent of moms. Not surprisingly, the reason most cited (44 percent of women and 30.7 percent of men) is the ability to keep up with the latest site content, easily checking out the most recent hot headlines and purchasing pointers without scouring each site on their bulky list of bookmarks. With more respondents willing to follow their favorite content sites on social media, a branded blog post may just be more effective than a company's own Facebook promotion.
Translating a blogger's trendy tip into a brand's social media click can be tricky, but the key may be in keeping it easy and irresistible. Social media extensions (e.g., Facebook page and/or Twitter handle "follow" buttons) within online display advertising messages prove effective in driving consumers to engage with a brand in social media. Clicking a button while admiring the product, it seems, is the social media equivalent of an impulse buy. One-quarter (25.4 percent) of all respondents, including 31.7 percent of moms, are either very or somewhat likely to follow a brand-name product or service on social media if they see the brand promoted in an online ad. If a brand takes advantage of that immediate inclination with an effortless button, their online audience of potential social shoppers can grow rapidly.
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