Social media is now mainstream – 25m US adults base purchase decisions on it

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Two pieces of research out this week highlight the fact that social media is truly entering the mainstream. The Technorati State of the Blogosphere 2008 report shows that three-quarters of active Internet users globally read blogs, and 184 million people have set up a blog. If the blogosphere were a country, it would be the sixth biggest in the world, just smaller than Brazil.

Then today came research from MarketTools showing that 70% of US adults visit blogs, social networks, online communities or other social media. And 42% report that their use of these sites and tools has increased in the last six months.

Both of these reports show that social media is more and more forming a part of people’s lives. With three quarters of global Internet users, and 70% of all US adults visiting social media sites it truly now is the mainstream.

What is interesting is to delve a little deeper in the MarketTools report and to understand why people are using sites like this. When we build online communities for clients, we spend a lot of time understand why the potential communities members would interact, what they like to do online and how this matches with our, and our client’s aims for the online community. The MarketTools research adds to our overall understanding here.

A third of respondents said that they use social media for product research, a telling statistic. With increasing numbers of brands integrating a social layer into their online presence it is reassuring to hear that almost one in four US adults uses social media to help decide what they will buy. And almost half of those who did use social media in this way said that it had a direct impact on the purchase decision.

So we are looking at an online environment where use of social media really has reached the mainstream. 70% of US adults visit social media sites. A third of these (so 23% of all US adults) research products online and 47% of these (11% of all US adults) say this directly impacts decision making. That’s about 25 million adults in the US making their purchase decisions on the basis of social media.

These statistics show that, for the US at least, social media is mainstream and something that all brands need to be making the most of. It would be interesting to see the same statistics repeated for Europe so that we can start to put a figure on the size of the opportunity for brands here. Our anecdotal evidence of working with brands across Europe at FreshNetworks suggests that the figures may not be far behind those in the US.

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