When it comes to health and beauty purchases, social influence trumps TV ads

New consumer survey indicates friends, Facebook and digital media are biggest influencers of purchasing decisions

MT. KISCO, N.Y. — Increasingly, social media is leveling the playing field for small- and mid-sized brand marketers, opening new, more affordable and more effective avenues to communicate with consumers versus such traditional media as TV and radio. And new research suggests the balance of power already may be tipping in favor of social marketing, particularly in certain categories and definitely among certain consumers.

According to a survey of more than 1,500 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older — conducted in May by VeraQuest on behalf of marketing/public relations firm Robin Leedy & Associates — consumers said that friends and TV are equal in terms of their ability to influence an over-the-counter or a health and beauty product purchase (49%).

Factor in the influence of such social networking sites as Facebook (7%) — really just another way to measure “friends” — and the impact of social influence is even more significant. “The socially wired world is emergently and unmistakably impactful,” said RL&A president Robin Russo. “This is undoubtedly significant for all the companies that don’t have robust TV ad budgets, or any budget, for advertising, at all.”

A deeper dive into the research revealed that the influence of friends is even more pronounced among women (52%) — particularly among women ages 30 to 49 years (55%), and even higher among women ages 18 to 29 years (58%).

“In the new world of social networks, it makes sense that friends’ opinions are growing in importance,” Russo said. “And that is a compelling reason for brands to market on Facebook, Twitter and the like, where consumers become immediate brand ambassadors spreading their influence to all those in their sphere of social influence and engagement.”

The third biggest influence of OTC and HBA purchases overall was spouses/partners (36%); however, this differs sharply among men (45%) versus women (27%). A look at other key influencers suggested that, in general, digital media trumps traditional media, including online product reviews (27%) versus consumer magazine ads (24%); online articles (16%) versus newspaper articles (13%); and online video (7%) versus radio messaging (3%).

Blog reviews are another area that ranked as sources of greater influence among younger women (14% of women ages 30 to 39 years versus 6% overall).

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