The Social Media User

Small business owners are constantly urged to get on the social media bandwagon. But who is clicking on your Facebook page or reading your Twitter feed? And, more important, do these efforts really make a difference?

The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association released a new study comparing social media users to the average U.S. adult. Conducted over a period of two months in 2009, the survey defined “social media users” as anyone who regularly uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or MySpace, and may also send text messages or write a blog. “Social Media: An Inside Look at the People Who Use It” produced some interesting (and surprising) results.

According to the study, one in five say they seek advice from others when purchasing a product and will use Internet searches to research products and read reviews.

Of the popular social networking sites, Facebook is the most popular—with seven out of 10 users between the ages of 18-34 using the site more than other comparable outlets (i.e. Twitter, MySpace).

However, even in our always-connected world, the survey concluded that face-to-face communication remains the most powerful means of influence. Out of 10 users surveyed, four ranked personal recommendations or conversations the reason they go online to search for certain products. In turn, they will also use word of mouth to spread their own opinions about a product or company.

The bottom line? Mixing traditional and online marketing may be the most effective plan to reach your customers and keep them coming into your store.

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