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Social Networks’ Real Influence

Last month, JupiterResearch reported that 48% of Internet marketers would venture into social media marketing this year. This month they were involved in the research behind iProspect‘s Social Networking User Behavior Study (press release). The result? Some pretty good stuff.

  • 1 in 3 Internet users state that social networks have influenced their purchase decisions.
  • 1 in 4 Internet users visit the most popular social networking sites at least once a month.
  • About 20% of visitors to social networking sites don’t search once they’ve reached the site.
  • Search engines still reach a broader audience than social networking sites, thus SEM is still a very important aspect of Internet marketing. (Of course iProspect found that!)
  • The social networking sites featured in the study included:
    • MySpace
    • Facebook
    • YouTube
    • iVillage
    • TripAdvisor
    • Yahoo! Answers
    • del.icio.us
    • LinkedIn
    • Craigslist
    • Amazon

Yep, that’s right, Amazon.com. Their reasoning was:

because of its use of user-generated content. . . . [V]isitors to Amazon have the ability to post ‘customer reviews’ of products, allowing potential buyers to read the reviews prior to making a purchase decision. It should also be noted that among all the sites examined by this study, Amazon is the only one on which you can directly buy a product.

So exactly how much of the “1 in 3″ purchase decisions were influenced by social networking sites other than Amazon? According to the graph, less than 13% were influenced by a site other than Amazon. Amazon influenced 28% percent.

That’s completely understandable; I weigh very heavily upon the opinions and reviews posted on Amazon before buying a book for myself or for others, especially when I haven’t read that book and/or am not familiar with the genre.

However, I haven’t been able to convince myself that Amazon should have been included. To me, it’s primarily an eCommerce site with some very handy social features. Without Amazon, the impressive “1 in 3″ stat (which, by the way, is actually closer to 4 in 10) sinks to more like 1 in 8—still not too shabby, but probably not worth refocusing your efforts on quite yet.

(Interesting aside: Of the 2200+ adults surveyed, more had posted a comment on Facebook than on any other site studied!)