Social media more than just a fad: studies

A recent survey by People from Cossette indicates that 77% of internet users use it to research products, brands, companies and services and a third of those people will share that information with friends via social media. But not everyone is social-media mad: 26% of Canadians still prefer face-to-face over Facebook.

Recent studies conducted by Cossette and Synovate add considerable heft to the notion that social networking may be the new medium of choice for future advertisers.

Toronto-based global marketing intelligence firm Synovate finds that eight out of 10 Canadians ‘cannot live without the internet,’ edging out television as the country’s most popular medium. And a large percentage of internet users – 66% – are using Facebook to interact with their friends, family and advertisers. But in Canada, 26% of those surveyed indicated they still prefer face-to-face contact – espeically in Quebec.

Where are they using these networks? The Cossette study indicates that 60% of people access them from home. Work-wise, 25% of 25- to 34-year-olds will sign in from their desks, while the 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed claimed to spend an average of 16% of their time online at work on social media sites. ‘It’s no surprise then,’ the study stated, ‘that 75% of young people claim to visit Facebook on average 16 times a week or…more than twice a day.’

As audiences become more engaged with social media networks, advertising opportunities are increasing, Rob Myers, managing director, Synovate, says in a release summarizing the study.

‘The opportunity for more targeted and personalized advertising is growing,’ he says, adding that it’s ‘creating a tectonic shift in the business models and economics of all media/advertising related industries.’

Behaviourally, the Cossette study found that 63% of Canadians still prefer to mostly look at material others have uploaded on social media sites, while just 13% like to contribute. Twenty-eight percent and 30%, respectively, like to share or react to material others have uploaded.

Facebook is still the social media king, the study found, with 66% subscription rate among internet users. This popularity led the authors of the study to boldly make the claim that Facebook ‘is poised to become the next Google,’ as it has the most daily connections (26%) of all the main social media networks. The other social media sites trailed far behind in that regard, with YouTube and MySpace at 4% and Twitter at 3%. In Canada, two-thirds of all social media activity takes place on Facebook: an ‘astonishing’ 79%.

Social media users are serious about content and take advertising seriously, Luc Cormier, VP, Cossette Media and Impact Research, told MiC in a recent interview. Seventy-seven percent of internet users seek information about a product, service, brand or company online, the study found, and three of 10 Canadians will share this information with other users afterwards. Over half of respondents said they like to be informed about new products, and 55% said that people they know expect good advice from them about products. This group in particular actively seeks out information online and are receptive and curious to advertising messages.

This trend, the report stated, is ‘the great pay-off’ of social media: influence sharing among internet users.

‘Right now, the attention is turning towards social media, and it seems to be working in terms of influence,’ Cormier says. ‘It seems to be affecting how people consider brands. If that’s any indication, then money is likely to follow. Clients are expecting to spend more in this space next year than they did this year.’

The Cossette study used a sample of 1,225 Canadians with weighting according to the respondents’ gender, age and geographic region, according to Statistics Canada’s 2006 census data. The margin of error is + or – 2.8%, 19 times out of 20. Synovate surveyed 8,600 people globally, including 1,000 respondents in Canada.