I doubt that this really shocks anyone when they are rationally thinking about the power of social media rather than being swept up in whatever hype is coming out of Silicon Valley these days. Despite the social media revolution and the ‘your life will never be the same!’ messages that accompany every new product launch (Color anyone?) there still remains the fact that at least at this point in time people still talk more about brands and products face-to-face more than any other way.
A study performed by Colloquy and reported by eMarketer shows that even amongst the technologically savvy young adult crowd (age 18-25) face-to-face is the most often used method for giving information about products and brands.
This is actually good news for the social media set on one front. It’s fair to suggest that social media often fuels these offline conversations and that is likely to be very true.
What is tough for the social media practitioners to stomach is that once these conversations leave the measurable confines of the Internet the tracking and attribution to social media becomes next to impossible. This is where the SEO crowd has struggled forever in trying to connect the impact of SEO campaigns to sales and conversions. Since there are so many other factors influencing purchase decisions there is no solid line that can truly be connected in most cases thus the frustration by SEO’s and clients alike in trying to pin a true value on the practice. Same goes for social media efforts.
What it seems that everyone wants to know is just how far social media will go in influencing the purchasing habits of people. There is a bit of a paradox here though because that won’t be able to truly be known until the number of people who have grown up with this technology outnumber those who did not. It’s about ingrained behavior vs. changing existing habits. Until there are more people who do technology as second nature it will be hard, if not impossible, to truly understand just how far social media will take the field of marketing.
For sure the future is bright but it is also pretty far off as well. We have a considerable amount of time during the transition from traditional media to the digital age where many old and new sources of influence will play critical roles in the purchasing decisions of consumers.
One thing that is likely to remain though is that immeasurable and invaluable face-to-face communication that people still need and are likely to need for as long as people are people. No matter how much we want to digitize our lives there is something about being in person that cannot be replicated online.
At what point do you think that social media and online interactions will trump the face-to-face recommendation of a friend? Will it ever happen? Is it happening already?