We all hear repeatedly that we need to become involved in social networking if we want to be relevant and successful with online ventures, but it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly what path you should take in your pursuit of making the most out of social networking sites for business purposes. One recent study focusing on Australian users may provide some insights to help you decide where to concentrate your efforts.
The study, carried out by Sensis, together with the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA), surveyed 803 consumers and 1,944 businesses. Among the findings were that 12% of those involved with social networks reported using social networking sites to research products they are interested in purchasing. (Sensis Social Media Report, May 2011)
But they are also involved in other activities related to purchasing and shopping on social networks. 11% indicated that they follow brands or business in the hopes of accessing special offers or promotions, 12% research travel offers or holiday destinations in this arena, and 15% use social networks to follow or find out information on specific brands or companies. Certainly the majority of reasons cited for using social networking sites involve activities such as catching up with friends and family (93%), sharing photos or videos (56%), coordinating activities (32%), finding out about entertainment (26%), playing games (24%), or meeting new friends (18%), but with the business-related uses involving a solid 10% or more each of those surveyed, businesses ignore this behavior at their peril.
Also enlightening was the breakdown by product/service by the 12% of those surveyed who reported using social networking sites to research products and services. The list was headed by the “clothing/fashion” category, with 42% using social networks to research items in this category, followed closely by “electrical goods” at 39% (this does not include computers, software or computer games). Furniture and items for the home were at 28%, computers at 21%, music at 19%. Other categories included computer games at 9%, cars at 7%, books at 5%, and entertainment/events at 4%. It does seem a bit surprising that clothing/fashion was such a large part of the breakdown, yet this is yet another indicator that businesses need to consider the source of the interest — here the traffic is coming from social networking sources, where the concerns are inherently more personal than the Internet in general.
Looking into studies such as this one can tell you a lot about where best to position your own products and services. The results here would seem to indicate that if you sell or design clothing, you cannot afford to neglect the social networking space and its emphasis and interest in fashion. On the other hand, if you sell or make beauty or cosmetic products, with only 4% of those researching products looking for info on your product category, it may not be as vital to participate directly at this point in social networking sites — individuals may not be willing yet to discuss their use of these items so openly in an arena where their identity could be well-known.
In many ways, it’s all relative. Social networking sites may not at this point fit your specific market, but there are certainly other online marketing areas where you should be beefing up your participation, all the while keeping an eye on the social networking space. The one thing you can be sure of is that change is happening, and it is happening quickly.