Online Consumers: 31% Use Social Media to Seek Friend Referrals for Brands/Products

A new study by GroupM Search and comScore analyzes how consumers use search engines and social media before making purchasing decisions.

  • 58% of respondents first turned to search engines to find products, while only 18% went to social media first
  • During the purchase process, 48% of shoppers used a combination of search and social media
  • 4 in 10 consumers who tried search first were then motivated to use social media to help make their purchasing decision
  • 46% of those who used social media first also used search to find products

While the two are often used in combination, search and social play two fairly different roles in the purchasing process. InformationWeek reports that search is seen primarily as a pricing tool throughout the buying cycle, although consumers will also use search to research a product and decide where to buy an item.  In contrast, those who first turn to social media sites such as Facebook are generally seeking referrals: the primary reason 31% of respondents gave for using social media as part of their purchasing decision was to get the opinions of others.  According to the report, this feedback from friends also helps consumers eliminate brands and products from consideration.

In addition, social media raises peoples’ awareness of alternate options: 28% learned about new brands and products from sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

After the purchase is made, 64% of consumers are likely to follow that brand via social media.  74% of survey respondents prefer a Facebook brand page as the format for future engagement with a brand they’ve purchased from.

The full study is called “The Virtuous Circle: the Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway”.  Research was conducted using both behavioral and survey analysis of consumers from comScore’s opt-in panel of more than 1 million Internet users in the United States, from April – November 2010.