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BizReport : Social Marketing : June 24, 2014

Does social media influence purchase decisions?

Companies big and small have turned to social media to target consumers and persuade them to buy or try their products. But does a social media approach work? Gallup's recent survey findings may disappoint some marketers.

by Helen Leggatt

The big question is, how effective is social media on consumers' purchasing decisions? The answer isn't good. Of the 18,000 U.S. consumers surveyed by Gallup for their State of the American Consumer report, almost two-thirds (62%) said Facebook, Twitter and other social media had no influence whatsoever on their product purchasing decisions.

Just 5% said that social media had "a great deal of influence" on what they bought and 30% said it had "some influence".

The fact is, social media is mostly seen as a networking tool. Almost all (94%) of social media users said they use it primarily to keep in touch with family and friends. Just 29% said they use social media to find product reviews and information, or follow trends.

There is, found Gallup, some difference of opinion between different generations. The older a social media user is, the less likely they are to have their purchasing decisions impacted by social media. Three-quarters of pre-Baby Boomers say social media has no impact on their buying decisions compared to 48% of Millennials.

"These channels do not motivate prospective customers to consider trying a brand or recommending a brand to others," says the report. "Therefore, if companies want to acquire new customers, their best bet is to engage their existing customers and inspire them to advocate on their behalf."

On a more positive, or day I say it, realistic note, Gallup does recognize in its report that social media may have more influence than a self-reporting survey might imply. While the data shows that few consciously consider social media to have an impact on their buying decisions, that's not to say that subconsciously more is going on.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: brand marketing, product marketing, purchase decision, social media, survey

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