Research shows how Facebook and other social media campaigns are great at selling products

The rise of social media sites isn‘t just transforming how people communicate, it is changing how they buy. This is why it is a key way for brands to connect to consumers, and they often turn to PR experts to tell them how.

It is therefore vital that PROs learn how to use social networks to promote brands, and first they need to appreciate how, and why, people are persuaded to buy after reading about products on Facebook pages. Latest research commissioned by consumer agency Skywrite shows just how influential social networks are, in particular Facebook, when it comes to encouraging consumers to buy.

According to the research carried out in five European countries, three-quarters of respondents would investigate a product or service if it was recommended on a social network by a friend. The UK consumers were the least likely to be influenced this way (58 per cent said they would be) while German consumers were the most likely to be swayed (82 per cent said they would be).

Nearly half (43 per cent) of British consumers also said that they were more likely to shop at a website that they had noticed because of a social network. Male consumers are considerably more influenced this way (51 per cent compared to 35 per cent of women).

Emma Hazan, managing director of Skywrite, believes that the research underlines how much social media is influencing consumers, and in particular men, to buy. However, she points out that advertising still has a role to play in building sales. She says: “At this point in time, products must be advertised and promoted across both traditional and non-traditional platforms to maximise audience reach.”

Looking at why social networks are such powerful influencers involves looking at how people relate to their friends. Vince Miller, lecturer in sociology and cultural studies at Kent University, says that it is hardly a new phenomenon that people are persuaded to buy products because of friends’ recommendation. What is different today is the geographical reach of friends’ influence. Miller says: “Many sociologists now claim that society has become increasingly mobile and as such, people’s social relationships have become much more dispersed in terms of geography. As a result, these relationships have increasingly become maintained through the use of digital communications technologies such as mobile phones, texting, and the Internet.”

As individuals establish more of a social presence online, it makes sense for businesses to do the same. As Miller explains, “If one can imagine a social networking website such as Facebook as a kind of continual conversation which helps to keep people together, it seems reasonable to suggest that it is vital for consumer-oriented businesses to also be a part of that conversation.”

Methodology

Skywrite commissioned research company Vanson Bourne to survey 1,000 consumers across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. It approached 200 people in each country with a 50/50 male/female ratio.