Social Media Reality Check

Earlier today CNW Group and Leger Marketing shared a preview of their new research into the social media usage, views and habits of Canadian consumers and public relations practitioners at the mesh 2009 Web Conference.

The study was unique in its approach of looking at both the consumer and PR practitioner sides of the social media relationship; looking for gaps and overlaps in PR practitioner perception and the consumer-reported reality.

More than 1,500 Canadian consumers were surveyed on issues ranging from how often they use online communications tools, to how social media has influenced their purchasing decisions. PR Practitioners were asked how they thought consumer users would respond. In order to ensure the integrity of the research, only those consumers and PR practitioners who engage in social media were invited to participate.

This Canadian Social Media Reality Check illuminates some surprising and challenging assumptions on the state of social media in 2009.

Social media is growing

  • 49% of consumer social media users and 62% of practitioners use social media at least once a day, consumer use grew by 48% year-over-year.

Social media is influencing purchase decision making

  • 61% of consumer social media users turn to social media when researching purchases.

Social media is credible

  • 31% of consumer social media users and 55% of practitioners agree that social media is more credible than advertising. This was one of several interesting points of divergence between the views of users and PR professionals – a gap that will be explored in more detail when the full results are released.

Social media for news and information is important

  • 63% of consumer social media users use social media to keep up-to-date on news and information; 40% are using it to engage with organizations in a dialogue.

Social media users are still loyal to the more popular tools

  • Facebook is the most popular social media space for consumer social media users (77%) followed by YouTube (65%) and MySpace (20%).

Social media has broadened its demographic

  • 42% of consumer social media users 45 years and older are likely to use online channels to research products, significantly more than younger users.

Social media has untapped opportunities for PR practitioners

  • 69% of PR practitioners feel they understand social media but could be using it more effectively; 70% of PR practitioners do not have a tool to monitor social media and only 29% know who their organization’s key online influencers are.

The Social Media Reality Check Study was completed as a partnership project, as opposed to paid research. Full findings from the study will be published as part of a joint webinar to be hosted by CNW Group and Leger Marketing on April 29, 2009.

This survey was conducted among 1,516 users of social media and 615 practitioners. With a sample of this size, results of the user study can be considered accurate to within +/-2.5% and results of the practitioners can be considered accurate to within +/-4.0 %, 19 times out of 20.