Social networks reach an estimated 940 million people around the world, according to January 2010 research from InSites Consulting. Most are there for personal reasons, such as sending messages, looking at pictures, and posting and responding to status updates. But interactions involving information about products and services have proliferated as brands encourage online word-of-mouth.
Asked what source was most believable when it came to information found about brands on social networking sites, Internet users were most likely to favor their peers. But “the brand itself” came in a close second, far ahead of journalists, considered traditionally to be an objective source. Notably, users were much less trusting of marketers—a separate response from brands—and didn’t put much faith in a brand’s competitors either.
Opinions varied by geography, with respondents in Southern and Eastern Europe most trusting of consumer-based word-of-mouth and those in Asia and South America favoring the brand.
The research supports earlier data on trust in word-of-mouth from fellow consumers as well as the ability of brands to foster earned media through their own social network presences, which are also highly trusted.
InSites also found that, while brands were not the top presence that users became fans of, they made a respectable showing. Among those users that had become a fan of anything, 35% showed their support for brands.
Overall, 58% of respondents worldwide had become a fan of something, and 79% had become a member of social networking group.
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