In the 2008 Consumer Report from Razorfish (yes, they are still out there!) shows that 40% of online consumers have made a decision based on an advertisement they saw on social media sites and that three-quarters welcome brand advertising in these spaces.
So consumers are, it would appear from this research, comfortable with brands being present and advertising in social networks. It it worth comparing, however, the 40% of people that have made a purchase decision based on an advert in a social network with the 51% of people in the research who have made a purchase through a recommendation in a social network. This would indicate that whilst advertising and the presence of brands is accepted, personal recommendation have 25% more influence on purchase decisions.
This research does not come as a surprise. We know that social networks are very much a me space (I use to Facebook to see my friends, upload my photos and plan my events). It’s a very personal space and it is difficult in this environment for a brand to have as much impact as those people who are in your network. Advertising does work and people do accept it (possibly because they are used to advertising across the web pages they visit) but it cannot have the same impact as something that capitalises upon this network and personal space. It cannot, therefore, have as much impact as a personal recommendation from somebody else in the network (even if you don’t know them).
As we are hearing more and more, people trust people like them more than they trust an anonymous brand in an advert. They make purchase decisions based on things they read in social media, and on social networks, but are more likely to be influenced by recommendations from other users than they are from advertising. This is why word of mouth is so important in a social media context and why brands should be making the most of and amplifying the organic natural discussions that are out there, rather than necessarily advertising in the way they always have done.