Vision Critical

Vision Critical

May 04, 2010 14:43 ET

Vision Critical Finds Nearly One in Five Purchase Products Based on Social Network Exposure

Despite lingering trust and privacy issues, nearly half of all US Internet users say online social networks are a good place to advertise.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK--(Marketwire - May 4, 2010) - Nearly one in five US Internet users (18%) say they have purchased a product because of something they saw on a social network, yet the online gathering points continue to receive low trust and privacy ratings from consumers of all ages. This behavioral paradox is just one key finding from a new social media study from interactive research and technology firm Vision Critical.

The study, which surveyed 4,000 randomly-selected adults in the US, UK and Canada, reveals that even though online social networking sites bring consumers closer to the most trusted parts of their lives, namely their family and friends – consumers place little trust in the networks themselves and don't consider online social networks, forums and blogs to be as trustworthy as traditional media channels such as television, radio and newspapers.

 'Trustworthiness' of Each of the Following % 'Completely'/ 'Very Trustworthy'
Family you mainly see in-person 80%
Friends you mainly see in-person 70%
AM/FM radio 45%
Online news 39%
Television 38%
Print newspapers 33%
Print magazines 24%
Online social networks (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr) 12%
Online forums, blogs, reviews, or chat rooms 8%

In addition to a perceived lack of trust, the study also uncovered that Internet users continue to be very concerned about both their privacy and the unauthorized sharing of their personal information within online social networks. A majority of Internet users in the US (63%), UK (59%) and Canada (77%) 'strongly' or 'moderately' agree that they are very concerned about their privacy on online social networks, with a slightly smaller proportion that 'strongly' or 'moderately' agree they are worried online social networks are selling their personal information to advertisers (US: 55%, UK: 52% and Canada: 69%).

Despite looming trust and privacy concerns, Internet users are receptive to brand placement and advertising on social networks – and this exposure can lead directly to purchases, particularly among those under 35. Nearly half of U.S. respondents (48%) say that online social networks are good places for brands and products to advertise to consumers, while 39% of UK and 43% of Canadian participants agree. More than one quarter of US Internet users aged 18-34 (28%) say they've purchased a product because of something they have seen on a social network.

 Attitudes Toward Online Social Networks % 'Strongly Agree' / 'Moderately Agree'
  US UK Canada
I am very concerned about my privacy on online social networks 63% 59% 77%
I worry that online social networks are selling my personal information to advertisers 55% 52% 69%
Online social networks are good places for brands/products to advertise to consumers 48% 39% 43%
I enjoy learning about brands/products via online social networks 33% 27% 25%
I am able to make more informed purchase decisions because of online social networks 27% 20% 19%
I don't mind online social networks using my personal preferences to target ads I see because it means they'll be more relevant 26% 21% 20%
I have purchased a product because of something I saw on an online social network 18% 14% 13%

"This research suggests that while consumers may have very real concerns about the trustworthiness of online social networks, this emerging medium can still be a fertile ground for marketers and advertisers in terms of brand building, product marketing and advertising," says Matt Kleinschmit, Vision Critical's Senior Vice President of Media. "The key for advertisers is to successfully navigate the 'public' and 'private' characteristics of social networks, and harness those elements that will facilitate organic brand advocacy."

As social media marketers use increasingly sophisticated tactics to connect with their customers, the research reveals that consumers consider a brand message most trustworthy when it's discussed or recommended by friends, family or contacts within a social network. Coupons or special offers are deemed the second most reliable method of brand and product placement, followed by product photos and videos, sponsorships, and pages dedicated to a brand or product. Traditional banner ads are the least trusted among those tested.

'Trustworthiness' of Brand Placement on Social Networks % 'Completely'/ 'Very Trustworthy'
  US UK Canada
Friends/family/contacts discussing or recommending a brand/product 47% 35% 35%
Coupon or special offer for a brand/product 33% 19% 18%
Brand/product photos or videos 22% 12% 10%
Content sponsored by a brand/product (e.g. "brought to you by…") 19% 10% 9%
Online social networking page dedicated to a specific brand/product 19% 10% 7%
Paid advertisement for a brand/product (e.g. a banner ad) 15% 11% 8%

These findings are part of an ongoing exploration by Vision Critical into the role of trust and privacy within online social networks, as they represent a significant hurdle for brands aiming to develop a profitable presence in this popular online arena.

"What we are learning in our ongoing research is that consumer trust in social media is highly nuanced and for advertisers who see this medium as an emerging brand-building channel, brands need to be contextually linked within consumers' most trusted peer or professional networks," says Kleinschmit. "Simply being visible is not enough."

On Wednesday, May 5, Kleinschmit will moderate a panel discussion at the Social Media Strategies Conference in Boston. The session will explore the "sweet spot" where traditional media meets social media and outline innovative strategies from brands that include Eastman Kodak Company, The Coca-Cola Company, NHL, Washington Capitals, and NBC's Today Show.

Data for this release is based on online fieldwork collected between March 3 and 7, 2010, involving over 4,000 randomly selected adults in the US, UK and Canada. With a total sample size of 1,007 adults in the US, it's with 95% certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 3.09%. With a total sample size of 1,011 adults in Canada, it's with 95% certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 3.08%. With a total sample size of 2,003 people in the UK, it's with 95% certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 2.19%.

About Vision Critical®
Vision Critical is a strategic interactive research company combining interactive technology, researchers and global panels. We help companies reduce research costs while generating engaging and insightful relationships with consumers. Vision Critical uses a visual approach, panel technology and our own global panels to embrace markets with the click of a mouse. The company has offices across North America, Europe and Australia and a Global Partner Program that provides other research companies and consultants with access to our technology.

Angus Reid Public Opinion is the company's global public affairs practice, specializing in the analysis and understanding of "citizen markets" and the public commons. Its Global Monitor contains over 20,000 published surveys.

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