A recent survey of MomConnection, a research panel of 583 moms organized by The Parenting Group, concludes that product recommendations come from friends, not networks:
While 60% of moms have used social media in the last 24 hours, they are four times more likely to purchase through direct referrals, than proposals through social networks.”When it comes to influencing brand perception and purchase decisions, the data shows that social media still has a long way to go,” said Stephanie Molnar, Work Place Media.
I don’t know what the questions were, exactly, and I see that sites like Facebook, Classmates, MySpace and YouTube tend to top the mom’s list of preferred social networks, with Twitter coming in 6th on the list, so this doesn’t quite match the experience I (a non-Mom) and many of my online friends have, but if you bear with me I have a point, I promise.
Social networks look completely different to different types of users. If you’re primarily there to market or promote your company, you don’t really get the same value that a person who is there to meet people and make friends is experiencing.
Discussion boards and forums have existed since before the visual, navigable internet, and online friendships are definitely formed that are as real and valid as the relationships you form with people in person. To form the conclusion that everyone is looking at their social hangout of choice the same way you do, and asking questions from your experience and not theirs, is not going to offer the most accurate data… I think it’s possible this survey could yield different data if it were given to a different set of Mom’s that use platforms such as Twitter and discussion boards where “friends” are primarily unknown rather than known when you meet them (such as Facebook and Classmates, the top two platforms in use by the MomConnection group.)
Though I follow a lot of people and a lot follow me, my genuine “friendships” on Twitter are not as great as the number of people I follow. I most definitely would trust and listen to recommendations and referrals made by my smaller group of online friends with equal weight I give to my in-person friends or family members. There are people I have never met (yet) that are definitely as trusted as those in my inner circle of friends. The type of user is also going to be a factor – tech users and early adopters tend to listen to each other more readily than non-tech-oriented people and those who aren’t as comfortable navigating the social waters online.
A recent, horribly sad story getting press right now illustrates my point about the lack of understanding of social friendships. A mother reached out to her friends and told them about her son, who had gotten into the family pool and was found drowning. She tweeted to please pray for her son, and within a half hour he was declared dead. People bashed her on twitter, the media has reported the story like it’s some outrageous act, but people need to step back and think before bashing her… my best friend from Texas is on Twitter, as are my clients, co-workers and many people I am close to, converse with daily and consider chums – that we have not met face-to-face is honestly a mute point. These are my friends, my daily companions and people I care about. And they care about me. If I say something to them about something serious going on in my life, why would anyone criticize my actions? That people who DON’T know this heartbroken Mother would stick their nose in and be hateful shows they don’t comprehend what’s really going on in her life or with her group of Twitter friends.
Back to the survey, it offers both interesting, and possibly contradictory results. For example, they learned that 94% of moms give advice to other moms, and 69% recommend brands by name, but they’re four times more likely to ask their friends offline for advice… so is everyone talking with no one really listening? That seems unlikely, especially on a discussion board or place like Twitter where you are having back and forth conversations.
Interestingly, some consider their online friends recommendations to have the same weight as offline friends, but don’t trust random comments from those they don’t know. In a neat story about Trident doing an ad containing tweet testimonials, Jennifer Grove said that she might consider buying some Trident Layers gum if her Twitter friends recommended it, but seeing tweets from people she didn’t know in the ad, was not enough to sway her.
Without the full survey it’s hard to know the context of the data, but if you’re looking to collect information for your own marketing purposes you might want to keep some of these things in mind, and independently study the same people interacting that answer your survey (if possible) for the most complete picture. Users, across the board, in virtually every situation, do not align what they say with what they do… so when you’re looking at studies like this and thinking about your social media marketing budget, keep that in mind.