When it comes to product and service recommendations, Facebook scored highest as the most trusted platform, according to a new survey conducted by Social Media Link, an advocacy activation company.
Some 10,337 people who are active in social media were surveyed online. Ninety-three percent were women, and 70 percent of all respondents were between the ages of 25 and 44.
This story first appeared in the December 11, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The survey found that 68 percent said they trusted Facebook over blogs (63 percent); retail Web sites (63 percent); Pinterest (56 percent); YouTube (51 percent); Twitter (41 percent), and Google+ (41 percent).
“During the holidays when everyone is looking for trusted information on what to buy, recommendations from your social circles on Facebook will carry the most credibility,” said Susan Frech, chief executive officer of Social Media Link. “Undoubtedly, the survey found that people don’t need hundreds of recommendations and reviews to entice purchase. It’s really about receiving a quality message from a trusted source.”
Jordan Herrmann, marketing director of Social Media Link, added, “The data we found showed a few points that we believe demonstrate how recommendations from Facebook friends can drive transactions. The results showed that Facebook is the most trusted platform, and, when it comes to making an actual purchase decision, friends and family were ranked as having the highest impact. When thinking about your Facebook social circle, friends and family are an enormous part of it, if not all of it.”
According to the study, reviews by friends and family have the biggest impact (86 percent), followed by professionals (58 percent); Web site reviews (54 percent); acquaintances (42 percent); bloggers (39 percent), and celebrities (11 percent).
Herrmann explained that the reason Facebook has the most impact is because the network is one of the most closed, where relationships are valued. The implication for brands, she said, is that they may be missing the opportunity to use small social circles because brands often focus on bloggers and influencers in social media. However, the study showed their opinions may carry less weight. The idea isn’t to discount bloggers, which she said are so important to fashion, beauty and luxury, but rather to explore the huge additional opportunity to leverage social recommendations through an individual’s social circles and to implement this tactic with scale.
Forty percent of those surveyed said the most valuable reviews are those that contain personal stories, rather than a list of product benefits, which were most valuable to 34 percent. Star ratings are less influential; just 15 percent said they’re the most valuable in influencing purchases.
People trust online posts and reviews most for household products (23 percent); personal beauty items (18 percent); electronics (16 percent), and restaurants (15 percent), according to the survey.
According to the study, people trust product recommendations from people they know (92 percent), more than e-mail (50 percent), TV (47 percent), print (47 percent), outdoor ads (47 percent) and radio (42 percent).
The survey examined why people share their opinions online and found that a positive experience with a brand was the primary driver of online reviews. Some 78 percent said they shared their opinions based on their experience. Less than half, 47 percent, said a negative experience prompted a review. Forty-six percent said they like sharing their opinions with others, while 43 percent said they shared opinions online to help inform others.
Finally, some 77 percent of those surveyed said they needed to see less than 10 reviews to prompt them to make a purchase.
Among the key takeaways are that rather than focusing on the overall number of recommendations for one’s brand, one should concentrate on how to generate content that will have the strongest impact. In addition, brands should focus on encouraging their consumers to share personal stories, mobilize advocates to share within their close social circle, and look for those who have had a great experience with one’s brand, according to the survey.