Razorfish recently put out a fabulous report on social influence. However, it was 54 pages long. Below are the insights I found most useful. You can see the full report here (a great read): http://fluent.razorfish.com/publication/?m=6540&l=1
Introducing the Social Influence Marketing Survey:
• Razorfish surveyed 1,000 consumers split evenly between active social network users and a sample drawn from the general population** to test for variations in responses between them (participants who had never used a social platform were screened out). No significant variations in responses were ascertained.
• Concentrating on the 18-55-year-old age range, the panel had equal gender representation.
• Fifty-six percent (56%) of the panel respondents reported spending over $50 a month online.
• It’s important to note that we found no variations in the responses among the people who identified themselves as active users of social networks and those who use social media less frequently. In other words, as you study the survey responses, note that social influencers and social media have an impact on the general consumer population — not just a small elite of social media enthusiasts.
• … traditional top-down branding will become increasingly impotent as social media grows.
• Consumers continue to rely on personal networks to learn about products and services.
• Consumers are shaping brands as much as brands themselves are.
• Brand management will require greater transparency and a stronger connection to consumers than ever before.
• Today, consumers do not have complete trust in the marketing efforts of brands on the social platforms — making the brand management tasks all the more difficult.
Top-down branding will become increasingly impotent:
• Building upon previous studies, we find social network membership continuing to grow, with 80 percent of respondents reporting that they belong to between one and three social networks, and 40 percent reporting being active members of two.
• This suggests that people are choosing to concentrate their networks instead of spreading themselves too thinly, and that as people choose to go where everyone else goes, preferred online communities are emerging.
• This will potentially result in further consolidation of social media properties in the future. This trend also maps to academic research, which demonstrates that users gravitate online in groups and move between social platforms in groups as well.
• Among members of the generic sample, in which 60 percent are under age 37, 20 percent of respondents spend six hours or more per week on social media sites versus 51 percent of those from the social media sample, in which 77 percent are under age 37.
• A significant percentage of respondents labeled themselves as contributors to social media, with 71 percent saying they share a product, service or restaurant recommendation with others online at least every few months
• Twenty-nine percent (29%) of respondents report sharing their product views online at least every few weeks, while just 10 percent report making such contributions at least every few days.
Implications for brands
• Brands must socialize with consumers. It won’t be enough for brands to craft powerful messages and push them through different media channels. They will need to participate directly in conversations with consumers and provide more meaningful value exchanges. And they will need to do so in ways that increase their relevance and value in the eyes of their consumers — or the brands will be completely ignored.
• Brands must develop a credible social voice. Regardless of the industry, brands will need to focus on developing credible voices for SIM. These voices will need to be more engaging, personal, humble, authentic and participatory than traditional advertising messages.
• Brands must provide a return on emotion to their consumers. Presently, loyalty between consumers and brands is asymmetric. The more consumers sense a symmetrical relationship, the more loyal they will be. Social media is a great tool for building symmetrical brand relationships, in which both the brand and the consumer reap equal returns from their relationship.
Influencers drive brand affinity
• Key Influencers: Bloggers, folks with Huge Twitter followings, content creators – they rarely know the consumer directly. Social Influencers: People who participate and comment, leave reviews, etc. Peer Influencers: Family members or part of consumer’s inner circle.
• Known peer influence tops the list, but social media — including corporate and independent blogs produced by key influencers — and user-generated content (UGC) from social influencers, play an influential role that meets or beats traditional marketing efforts.
• When asked how certain sources influence respondents in the awareness, consideration and action phases of making a purchase, respondents consistently attribute strong to heavy influence to word-of-mouth from known peers, both online and off. This bears out across all phases, with influence nearly doubling during the awareness and action phases, as compared to the consideration phase. As for other forms of influence across social platforms, they exhibit a different level of influence depending on where they are in the marketing funnel.
• In terms of brand perception during the awareness phase, independent blogs play a moderately influential role, trailing peer influencers by 31 percent.
• During the consideration phase of a purchase, blogs exhibit little influence but independent bloggers beat out branded corporate blogs by a margin of over 50 percent.
• Influence shifts again during the action phase, with influence from known peers regaining its substantial lead position, with 74 percent saying they had influence. Anonymous peer reviews on social media sites play only a slightly influential role in this phase, trailing known peers by over 50 percent. Independent blogs from key influencers exhibit little sway during the purchase phase but here, they beat out UGC and branded corporate blogs, which exert almost no influence at all.