Women turn to social networks for purchasing decisions as brands urged to tailor social media

Women more likely than men to refer to Facebook friends when making purchasing decisions (Bigstock pic)Women are twice as likely as men to refer to their social network contacts, especially Facebook friends, when making purchasing decisions, according to a study.  It also indicates more consumers  prefer informative content on brands’ social channels to simple offers of freebies and incentives, while  brands should tailor their online content according to age, gender and even income or education.

The study of 1,000 UK consumers using the newly-launched, self-service rapid online survey provider, Usurv*, which assessed their consumption of brands’ content online when making purchasing decisions. I’d love to learn from marketers if the below findings match up with their own experiences.

How consumers perceive brand content

A major positive we found for brands is that two-thirds (65%) of consumers said they find brands’ online content either “useful” or “very useful”, with women slightly more in favour than men.

Online publications are the most popular resource for information when making purchasing decisions, with almost half (44%) consumers referring to news and reviews sites, with men slightly more like to refer to them than women. The influence of independent bloggers in the decision making process may have been overplayed with just 13% of consumers referring to independent blogs. However, this figure is double those (6.5%) that refer to brands’ own blogs for advice in the purchasing process.

The influence of social networks

After online publications, advice and  recommendations from Facebook friends is the second most influential factor in the purchasing decision making process, although women (45.5%) were almost twice as likely (28.5%) as men to refer to friends for consumer advice.

Referrals to friends on Facebook decreases according education level. 37% of high school-level educated consumers will refer to Facebook friends for consumer advice, which drops to 27% for degree level and 24.5% for those with higher qualifications. Likewise, referrals to friends decrease as income increases. Does this mean that brands need to tailor their approach according to demographic rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, which many will do because it’s easier?

While consumers don’t tend to read company blogs, 14% of consumers will refer to brands’ official Facebook pages, which highlights the importance of consumer-facing brands in particular to get their Facebook strategies right. This reference to brands’ own Facebook properties is highest among 18-29 year olds (27%), and reference to independent bloggers also recedes with age, with one in five (19%) of 18-29 year olds reading blogs – a figure halved (8.5%) by over-60s.

How men and women differ

We all know that women tend to be more active on social networks, as the recent comScore/Facebook The Power of Like Europe report reaffirmed, but men and women are getting their purchase decision making information from different sources. We saw already that women are more likely to turn to Facebook friends for advice, but what about men?

Men (24%) are more likely to refer to YouTube than women (15%), I found. Men (46%) are also more likely to refer to online publications (41%) to get the information they need. This indicates that brands that target men will need to focus on SEO, great content and PR to get their message to a male audience.

What do we want from brands?

Perhaps surprisingly, the Planet Content and Usurv study found that freebies and giveaways were not the key draw for most consumers when it came to making purchasing decisions. People instead want user-generated content (32%), such as reviews or comments, plus factual material (32%). Younger people did indeed want more entertainment and freebies but this decreases with age. Overall, just one in five (20%) consumers felt motivated to look at official brand social media to get freebies.

For brands this means opening up to people to comment on their products, engaging with them and taking on board feedback to make improvements where required. The conversation is happening anyway, so brands need to get involved.

The key takeaways of this survey could probably be summerised thusly:

  • 1. Brands need to tailor their online content, digital and social media strategy according to demographic (gender, age, education etc.) and platform rather than hope that the same tactic or content will work for all
  • 2. The role of bloggers is important but don’t overplay it. Great for links and reviews but online magazines are still way more influential
  • 3. Brands’ own blogs are not convincing people to purchase. Why? Are they too sales-oriented?
  • Video is important. Use it!
  • 4. Don’t reduce your marketing to giveaways. People want great content and they want to opportunity to talk about brands. Brands need to empower them to do so and engage with them

*Study of 1,000 consumers carried out in July 2012. The author was given a free trial survey by Usurv and results were returned within three hours.

 

Chris Lee is managing director of digital media and online PR consultancy Planet Content.

Main image Bigstockphoto.com.