New study reveals social networking sites might not be the new advertising frontier many hoped

A new report from Knowledge Networks indicates users of social networking sites rarely rely on advertising or product guidance before making a product purchase. While 83 percent of the Internet population (ages 13 to 54) participates in social media -- 47 percent on a weekly basis -- less than 5 percent of social media users regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions in any of nine product/service categories.
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A new report from Knowledge Networks indicates users of social networking sites rarely rely on advertising or product guidance before making a product purchase.

While 83 percent of the Internet population (ages 13 to 54) participates in social media -- 47 percent on a weekly basis -- less than 5 percent of social media users regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions in any of nine product/service categories. In addition, only 16 percent of social media users say they are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites.

Click here to read the full press release detailing the study, posted on SNEWS.

SNEWS® View: Imagine that…social networking sites are more about being social than being commercial. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told an audience at a recent social networking conference that his company will NOT be pursuing advertising because he believes ads could be annoying to users, that advertising is not really compelling to the company, and that it would involve hiring an ad sales staff that is both labor and capital intensive. But don’t think Twitter, or even Facebook, which recently reported it expects $500 million in ad revenue this year, aren’t keenly interested in the commercial aspects of social networking.

So if ads aren’t floating the social networking boat, what is? Think applications, otherwise known as apps in correct parlance. Ad Age recently projected that Facebook app developers could easily generate $500 million in revenue with a slate of cool tools and apps. Little wonder Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the company was establishing a $250,000 fund to give grants to developers creating apps for Facebook.

These apps provide users in the social networking sphere useful and frequently fun tools and services that can be sponsored, branded and targeted. Customer interaction with a brand becomes enabled and often, that interaction has little to do with buying product. It is about service and branding and bonding and, yes, networking. Which makes a lot of sense, because if you think about it, social networking is all about the social aspect -- otherwise, we may as well start trying to call it commercial networking and that’s just, well, boring. Good luck with that. The virtual world is no different than the physical world -- just far more expansive.

Think of the networking part of social networking as essentially building relationships that are both lasting and beneficial. That’s pretty hard to do with an ad banner. However, with a cool and creative app that offers your prospective customers something useful or entertaining and carries your branding, now we’re starting to walk down the road to what could amount to a beautiful relationship.

Does this mean advertising is passé and so yesterday? Not at all. There are plenty of recent reports and studies that suggest if you abandon trade and consumer print advertising you do so at your peril. Social networking is just one more avenue and one more opportunity to connect with current and potential customers. It is in addition to and not a replacement for advertising. Where trade is concerned, consider too that advertising is less about your general branding as it is about reaching a very targeted audience with a specific message. Trade advertising also shows the industry that you support the trade publication with vital funding that allows it to continue to serve the industry.

--SNEWS® Editors

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