Who Really Gets People To Buy On Social Media – “Influencers” or Early Adopters?

According to findings of a new study by the Webby Awards, Social Media platforms really do allow people to influence the purchasing activities of their connections. The strategic question remains, however: who actually gets people to buy? Some social media experts say you must win the “influencers” to your cause and make them your advocates. Other experts say that success is still about the influence of “early adopters” with their friends.

The study by the Webby Awards was conducted with Harris Interactive. Four data points were shared recently. Overall, the data support the decades-old marketing insight that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing. The inherent challenge of word of mouth product/service endorsements is that they can only be earned by providing a product that satisfies the early adopter customer. It is basically outside the control of the marketer. However, the data from the Webby Awards study clearly demonstrates that word of mouth product/service endorsement remains powerful and that word of mouth influence is strong on social media platforms.

The first data point is that 56 percent of American adults aged 18 – 44 have been the first in their circle of friends to try a new product, service or technology.  Reports of findings from the study do not indicate why Americans over the age of 44 were not included in the study. This is a particularly interesting omission in light of several recent studies indicating dramatic increases in the number of people over age 44 that are active on social media websites. Further, the data might have been more valuable to marketers if segmented by more narrowly defined age groups.

The second data point is that 45 percent of American adults aged 18-24 say they post photos or thoughts about a new product they have tried. This is helpful information, and it supports the belief that social media platforms are commonly used by early adopters to share information with friends and with other contacts. The data would be more helpful if it provided more granular demographic information about these early adopters.

The third data point is this:

Who Really Gets People To Buy On Social Media – “Influencers” or Early Adopters? image Webby Awards buy on friends social posts inline mzt74ltbaj1qzstup1Who Really Gets People To Buy On Social Media – “Influencers” or Early Adopters?

Finally, the fourth data point is:

Who Really Gets People To Buy On Social Media – “Influencers” or Early Adopters? image Webby Awards Expect what they share to influence others tumblr inline mzt74xsN211qzstupWho Really Gets People To Buy On Social Media – “Influencers” or Early Adopters?

Social media are platforms heavily utilized by Americans in the 18 to 44 age category to share their opinions and to discover the product recommendations of their friends. Clearly, those who share photos and opinions expect to shape the opinions and purchasing decisions of others. Thus, social media platforms are a popular forum of the exchange of these thoughts with friends. Word of mouth recommendation and purchasing influence are alive and well on social media.

We also know that “influencers” hold sway over the opinions of many social media users when making product, service or technology choices. Unfortunately, the data will not answer the critical questions small business owners and marketers must answer:

  • Are influencers and early adopters the same people for a particular product, service or technology?
  • If they are not the same people, which group has the greatest influence with prospective customers or clients?
  • How can early adopters be identified and incentivized to purchase or test particular products you believe they will try, like, and share information about with others?
  • How can marketers and small business owners determine whether “influencers” or early adopters are the best ambassadors for their products/services?

Unfortunately, the studies available today will not answer these questions. Marketers and small business owners must gather data that are sufficiently granular and appropriately segmented to help them answer the questions and develop new marketing outreach strategies.

Knowing that early adopters share information about products, services and technologies on social media with the expectation that their thoughts will influence the opinions and buying activities of others is an important step in targeting marketing to early adopters. However, until segmented data become available, it will be up to marketers and small business owners to test audiences and methodologies until they identify the best people on the various social networks to influence the purchasing patterns of their target markets.

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