Think that your purchase decisions aren’t influenced by what you see in social media? Think again.
Jon Puleston, VP Innovation at Lightspeed Research tells us that:
“human beings have been socially influencing each other probably since the dawn of mankind”.
But, up until the last decade or two, let’s say, until social media became mainstream, the sphere of our social influence was confined to sectors where choices were on public display – be it the clothes we wear, the brand of beer we order at the bar or the haircut we get.
There were certain areas of consumption that were not on public display and as humans, there were product categories that we tended not to talk about much. For example, FMCG products. The power of influence in these categories tended to be from marketers, advertisers, and media.
But, with the advent social media the breadth of social influence has increased. Nearly everything we buy, consumer, and everything we think and have opinions about is potentially opened up to social influence.
Jon says that the free flow of opinions in social media is transforming and shaping consumer behaviour in all sorts of different industries. For example, the whole travel industry has been engulfed by the power of social influence – would you pick a hotel or a place to eat before reading what other consumers think?
So, how does social influence impact other purchase decisions?
Measuring Social Influence and Purchase Decisions
To explore the scope of social influence Jon and the team at Lightspeed recently conducted a large scale poll of 5,000 people around the world and asked what type of decisions they have made recently that had been influenced in some way by something they had read or seen on social media.
The results were pretty astounding – nine out of ten people claimed to have been influenced by something they had seen in social media. In every sector the acknowledged levels of influence were above 60%.
So, while the impact of social media on beauty trends, gift ideas and eating and drinking may not be that astounding. The results also highlighted some less obvious and unanticipated knock-on effects of social influence.
Social Influence and Dog Sales
Have you bought a dog recently? Seriously considering purchasing a dog? You’re not alone.
The Lightspeed survey found that people feel over exposed to pet posts, particularly dogs in social media. The impact is that people are starting to buy more dogs, and pet sales are up 20% over the past three years.
So, how does that translate into social media activity?
Working with Pular, the audience intelligence specialists, we used visual analysis to identify the volume of dog pictures shared on Twitter from 1st August 2016 to 31st August 2018. The results? A year-on-year rise in the number of photos shared.
OK, so this shows that people may being more overexposed to dog photos online but, does this really translate into sales?
Analysis of purchase intent around social media conversations certainly suggests that it does. It’s important to note here that our purchase intent measure identified desire to purchase on a weak to strong scale. So, we are unsure about the level of motivated intent but, it does indicate social influence at play.
It’s not just dog sales that have been impacted by social influence.
Social Influence and Christmas Decorations
What about Christmas decorations? If you’re like me you’ve probably been merrily handing over your cash for colourful new decorations over the past couple of years.
And, maybe you’ve been posting these shiny new baubles over social media to celebrate your Christmas spirit. It’s not just us, everyone’s at it.
Analysis from Pulsar shows that talk of Christmas decorations has been rising year-on-year since 2016. And, it’s not just the volume of conversation that’s been increasing, we’re starting to talk more about Christmas decorations more ferociously earlier in the year, and with a higher level of purchase intent.
The impact of all these posts and all this chat? Christmas decoration sales have increased 40% over the last three years.
Want to Predict the Next Trend?
If social media posts influence purchase decisions it means that social data could hold the key to the next purchase trend. Don’t believe me?
Well, that’s exactly what Kantar did for Unilever when they discovered that coconut oil was going to be the next big cooking trend – a whopping €500 find. You can read the full case study across on the #IPASocialWorks website.
Not only that, but social conversations can pinpoint the optimum time to launch marketing activity and promotions. For Christmas decorations, that is getting earlier in the year. Do you really know when purchase consideration happens for your brand?
Your next opportunity could very well be found in the noisy world of social data.
Want to know how? Subscribe to our newsletter and look out for our upcoming Product Opportunity Methodology. This methodology will give you the questions you need to ask, and how to approach social data analysis to spot the hidden opportunities in social media conversations.
- Jon Puleston, (2018). Will they like it?, paper originally presented at MRS Social Data Summit 2018
- Pulsar, Social Media Analysis
- Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash