The 2011 Social Media Matters Study

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2011 Social Media Matters Study

BlogHer just released the fourth annual Social Media study, providing a definitive view of how women are using blogs, social networks and technology in 2011.  As with past studies, this analysis compares media usage patterns and purchasing influence among social media users.  It also explores the level of relevance and passion among different types of media, to help us understand user engagement.  Finally, we looked at various social, cultural and political issues to see which were of greatest concern to women, and how different types of media could empower and inform about those issues.

Everyone is An Early Adopter

We’re seeing a sharp increase in the speed of adoption of mobile apps, online coupon sites and mobile gaming.  Just like last year’s social media games (Zynga’s Farmville in particular) came out of nowhere to achieve enormous usage patterns, 2011’s hot app includes mobile games like “Angry Birds”. Women have an appetite for the latest gadgets and apps, especially if they all serve different needs (fun…useful…saves money).

Women Trust Blog Recommendations:

Women who read blogs routinely trust implicitly the advice and recommendations they receive, especially if it is from a blogger that they follow on a regular basis. We find this is true in every study conducted over the past four years and the effect never diminishes.  In this year’s Social Media study, 88% of the active blog readers in the total U.S. general population trust the information they get from familiar blogs. Asked why they have this level of trust, nearly half (48%) say it’s because they had made purchases in the past based on blog recommendations and were satisfied with the results. Over 50% of the active blog readers in the general U.S. online population have made a purchase based on a blog recommendation.  That number jumps to 80% in the BlogHer network community. The top categories where BlogHer users turn to Blogs for reviews include Food/Beverage (67%), Clothing/Shoes (67%) Movies (62%), and Cosmetics (59%).  In the general online population, the #1 vertical for Blog reviews is Consumer Electronics.

“How often do you trust the information and advice of blogs you are familiar with?”

 

Familiar Bloggers Are Preferred Over Celebrities

In order to gauge the relative effectiveness of various online ad formats, the 2011 Social Media study asked which type of ad content would entice readers to want to learn more about or purchase a particular product.  Sweepstakes topped the list (58%), not surprising in a struggling economy.  A special blog promotion or familiar blogger also came in at a higher level than an ad featuring a celebrity, adding additional confirmation to the elevated trust readers bestow upon blogs.  However, regardless of what usage patterns might show, there is not a wide range of preference for any ad format.  From static to video, they all rate about the same.

“What kinds of online advertising formats entice you to want to learn more or purchase a product?”

Passion and Purpose: What We Love vs. What We Do With Media

Past BlogHer social media studies have shown that we bucket different types of activities according to the content source. Among blog readers in the general population, blogs are preferred for variety of purposes, including finding out about new products, ideas or trends as well as help for making a purchase decision.  As always, Facebook is the go-to destination for entertainment and connecting with friends/family. For the second year in a row, Twitter did not score particularly high in the general population for any usage behavior.  Its acceptance as a valued tool for product information is much lower than blogs or social media, although it is still seems to be appreciated as an entertainment device for following celebrity tweets.

Blog Reader Preferences:

Across the media spectrum, there are varying degrees of passion and engagement. Social media translates into the highest engagement levels compared to other forms of traditional and online media.  Both usage and passion levels are high for blogs and Facebook.  Television and radio both show high use, but they are often on in the background as a passive form of entertainment.  New media such as smart phone apps, shows moderate (but growing) usage levels, but the passion for these devices is extremely high.

All of this passion for individual types of content translates into extremely high levels of positive sentiment for social media.  We asked what kind of impact social media had overall, and the favorable response was substantial.

“What kind of impact does using social media have on your life overall?"

A lot of the love for social media is being generated by the comfort people feel from using it to make connections.  We asked what (about technology) made users feel most hopeful about the future, and the #1 response by a wide margin (64%) was “Social media makes it easier to stay in touch with friends and family”. The next highest response was more political than personal, with 41% saying that “technology makes it harder for repressive regimes to block information”.

They All Want to Talk About It

Study participants did not hesitate to put positive thoughts about social media into their own words.  Over 1,600 took the time to write their own mini-essays about how it has impacted their life. The results were overwhelmingly positive.  In fact 88% reflected a positive personal story about social media and only 4% showed negative sentiment.  Following is a typical comment: “Blogs have allowed me some insight into other mom’s lives and it’s nice to know that people all over the country have the same struggles and arguments I have.  It has let me see new ways to do things.  It has opened my eyes to lots of children’s products that I otherwise would have never been interested in.”

Social Issues that Cause the Greatest Concern

Respondents were asked to select the top three biggest issues out of a list of 20 individual concerns.  Both men and women in the total U.S. online population put “the economy” at the top of the list. Blogs help people cope with the worries that keep them awake at night.  The BlogHer community selected blogs as the #1 form of media for empowering and informing them about multiple issues, including Health, Cybercrime, Education and the Environment.

This year for the first time, BlogHer fielded a portion of the study in three international markets; Germany, Hong Kong and Brazil.  Health dominated as a topic of concern in all of those regions, including the U.S. where it was ranked right under the economy for the total sample.

Summary:

  • Everyone is an early adopter, thanks to mobile devices. Adoption rates of new services and tools are high, but volatile
  • Blog recommendations lead to good product experience. Positive experiences translate into trust.
  • Familiar bloggers rule, and are even more engaging than celebrities.
  • Technology & media are good things, but passion doesn’t always follow usage.
  • Economic concerns are still paramount in the U.S. but health issues worry people in all regions.

For an update on where the study has been released so far as well as a press release, please visit Elisa Camahort Page’s post here.

Methodology

  • Samples: Two data samples collected, Feb 2011
  • U.S. Total Online Population: survey fielded on Nielsen Online panel
  • BlogHer Network sample: survey fielded across 2,500 blogs & 25MM+ audience
  • Age: Men & women 18-76, with segmentation for Millenials (18-27)  /  Gen X  (28-45)  /  Boomers (46-64)  /  Seniors (65-76)
  • Sample Size (n)
    • US Online: N=1,254 women and 517 men (1,771)

BlogHer: N= 2,763 women and 98 men (2,

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