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Poll: Social Media Plays Little Role in Buying Decisions

Friends, TV ads and in-store displays are more likely to influence consumers, Gallup finds.

By University Alliance on February 24, 2015
Shoppers Pay Little Heed to Social Networks, Report Finds

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. shoppers say social media has “no influence at all” on their buying decisions, according to a new report by the Gallup research organization.

Although more than 70% of American adults are active on social media, only 5% of consumers say Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other networks have “a great deal of influence” on their purchasing decisions. Researchers found that social media has “some influence” for 30% of buyers.

The Gallup report, titled State of the American Consumer, noted that U.S. businesses spent about $5 billion advertising on social media in 2013, a number that’s projected to triple within a few years. But even among consumers who follow or “like” a business, about one-third say social media has no sway over how they spend their cash.

About 30% of survey respondents said they turn to Facebook or other networks to research products or find user reviews. Meanwhile, 20% said they visit social media sites to post product reviews.

“Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be,” the research organization reported.

Gallup says the survey, which included more than 18,500 adults, shows that friends, TV ads, in-store advertising and catalogs have greater influence on consumers than a company’s efforts on social media.

The Gallup survey also found generational differences regarding the role of social networks in purchasing decisions. For example, 48% of Millennials (individuals born since 1980) said social media is not a factor. At the other end of the age spectrum, 75% of “traditionalists” – those born before 1946 – said social media has no impact on whether they purchase a product or service.

Among members of the two other demographic groups, Generation X and Baby Boomers, the percentage that said social media has no influence on their buying choices was 57% and 68%, respectively.

The Gallup report, which was published in June 2014, drew some criticism within the research industry.

Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with the digital research and consulting firm Altimeter Group, noted that the survey data was 18 months old. Much has changed in the social media landscape in the interval between Gallup’s data collection and report publication.

Lieb also told AdWeek that consumers typically deny that marketing or advertising has any influence on their decision-making.

“It’s not an objective indicator, and that is why brands and agencies don’t use poll data to judge the effectiveness of advertising and marketing,” she told the magazine.

A month after the release of Gallup’s report, Altimeter published its own research showing that nearly 90% of companies are realigning in order to “engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”

The Altimeter report, The 2014 State of Digital Transformation, highlighted several potential benefits of such efforts, including improved customer satisfaction and engagement, and increased leads and sales.

Category: 2015 Headlines