By Chris Lee
In a world of consumers connected by social media, you would probably expect people to consult their friends on Facebook or Twitter followers before they make a purchase, but apparently search engine Google is by far the preferred choice. This is the finding of a new study from UK-based technology PR agency CloudNine PR.
The company used polling service Usurv to ask 500 consumers about the first place or person they would consult when looking for information about a new product or service they are considering buying over the value of £100.
More than half (55 per cent) of respondents said they would go straight to Google, more than double the number who would ask friends and relatives (24 per cent). Despite the march of social media in our modern consciousness, just three per cent said they would consult Facebook or Twitter for advice.
Don’t underestimate the power of search
According to Uday Radia, managing director of CloudNine PR, the message for PRs and marketers is simple: don’t underestimate the power of Google and start embracing search engine optimisation (SEO) if you have not already done so.
“There’s been a fair bit written about social recommendations and the influence that people’s Facebook and Twitter contacts could be having on buying decisions and I wondered if this might be starting to have an impact on traditional search behaviour,” he told NMK. “I was also interested in search and the role it plays. In my industry – public relations – people have dragged their feet about getting to grips with search. So would this survey show that they are missing a trick?”
Given that there are more than 30 million Facebook accounts in the UK, Radia said that he was surprised by just how few people would actually think to ask Facebook friends for advice when buying products and services.
“It does make you question the extent to which there is room for businesses to use social media,” he said.
Where does this leave marketers?
So, with so many marketing pounds, dollars and euros piling into social media, should marketers actually be majoring on SEO and minoring their efforts on social channels? Not necessarily, Radia said.
“Obviously the results point to just how important Google search really is and the importance of SEO and paid search marketing. Those in PR and marketing who have not dipped a toe in search are going to kick themselves if they don’t do it soon,” he advised.
Radia said it would be wrong to generalise social media marketing efforts based on a single survey, but marketers do need to think very carefully about what they are trying to sell and whether the people they are targeting are actually using social media.
“Which specific networks do they use and how? Are they likely to discuss or share content about your offering? It’s worth remembering that search experts believe Google is already making use of social signals to influence search results pages – so there’s another reason to persevere with social,” he concluded.