Contravening prevailing wisdom, the results of a new survey from Knowledge Networks show that social media does not, in fact, drive purchases. Fewer than 5% of consumers age 18-34 “regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions” on various product categories.
Or, rather, a new survey from Knowledge Networks shows that very, very few people think that social media influences their purchase decisions. And this is a story we’ve heard before—a year ago, Pew Internet Life conducted a similar survey and concluded the same thing, even though their stats really only indicated that the Internet doesn’t influence people who don’t use it. And once again, at first glance, these numbers aren’t very encouraging:
- 16% of the social-media users surveyed said they’re more inclined to buy brands that advertise on social sites
- 4% of consumers age 18-34 “regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions” in the “travel or travel services” and “banks or financial services” categories
- 3% for “clothes or shoes,” “eating out or restaurants” and “personal care products”
- 2% for “cell/mobile phones and services,” “cars or trucks” and “groceries or food”
- 1% for “prescription or OTC drugs”
- 24% sometimes turn to social media for guidance on “travel or travel services” purchases
- 23% sometimes turn to social media for “clothes or shoes” guidance
It’s important to note that Knowledge Networks reserved the “social media” title for purebred-social heavyweights (and yes, for some of these sites, that’s tongue-in-cheek):
Knowledge Networks says that the survey listed the above sites specifically but also asked respondents to consider “social media features on other websites that are not primarily social media sites.” But really, after reading that list, would you think about wasn’t including consumer reviews on Amazon (they don’t mention books or music as product categories, either or asking for product/purchase advice on your own blog as “social media”? (Okay, not you, the Internet marketing professional, but the average lay person.)
As I said after the Pew study last year:
This is a survey, not an empirical experiment. This only shows us what people think they think, not necessarily what they’re actually thinking, reading, doing (and influenced by). . . .
In reality, this ominous-sounding headline is most likely good news for the world of Internet marketing. After all, our influence is so subtle that after making a purchase, consumers don’t even realize we were involved. Now that’s powerful persuasion—marketing so subtle and so convincing that you purchase the product and forget the marketing.
On the plus side, 63% said ads are “a fair price to pay” for being able to use social sites. Oh, and a month after that badly-reported Pew study, another study came out saying that “83% said that ‘online product evaluations and reviews had at least some level of influence on their purchasing decisions.’” So keep your eyes peeled for that kind of headline next month.
What do you think? Does social media really not influence purchase decisions—or do people just not think it does when asked on a survey?