Don't believe everything you read in the Wall Street Journal - social media is still a valuable marketers' tool


The Wall Street Journal and other high profile titles have been quick to jump on just published research from Gallup which questions the marketing value of social media. Their data shows that 62% of consumers feel social media has no influence on their purchase decisions at all, which certainly makes for a powerful case against marketers increasing reliance on such platforms. Should we all be abandoning ship? The truth is the research tells us a number of things, but none of them are that social media doesn’t work.


1.Social Media is perceived to be nearly as effective as TV

You can dig out plenty of research which shows people have pretty low expectations of TV ads too – take this piece which suggests only 53% of us feel a TV ad has influenced our purchases. OK, TV is scoring around 15% higher than social media but it’s FAR more established an ingrained in our culture, it’s actually almost surprising that the disparity isn’t greater. If half the population is immune to TV advertising why do we keep trying it?

2.1/3 of people believe social media influences their purchases

It’s easy to spin a negative headline out of this research, but the fact that a third of people actively believe social media has influenced their purchases is actually a pretty powerful fact. If I told you that I had a tool which could potentially make one in three of your target audience buy your product you’d certainly take it seriously! Yes of course people primarily go to social networks to connect with friends, but that doesn’t make them spaces where advertising cannot positively impact.

3.Consumers have no idea what influences their purchases

Of course, this is the real lesson here. Asking consumers what influences their purchase decisions is a pretty pointless exercise when nearly all marketing theories point out that there are hugely complicated, and largely subconscious, forces at play here. People of course want to believe that they are immune to the impact of advertising, and also probably have quite a narrow definition of what being influenced would mean, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re not.

It’s never easy to track the impact of one marketing channel but it’s not impossible either – Facebook for instance carried out over 100 Datalogix studies in the US (which compared Facebook activity with loyalty card data) and showed typical ROI’s of around 5x on average, often higher. Cadbury Creme Egg in the UK was able to show an 18% in intent to purchase caused by Facebook back in 2013, roughly the same as the increase TV drove. 

Whilst it’s interesting to hear that people don’t THINK they’re influenced by social media, the cold hard data shows that they ultimately ARE, so marketers don’t need to pack up quite yet they just need to start thinking of social like they do other media channels.

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