Online Influencers Gain Traction Over Celebrity Endorsements as Trusted Voices

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Rapid rise in mobile apps, coupons and gaming shows that “early adoption” is the new mainstream, says BlogHer study

According to a new study from BlogHer, Inc., the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online, people are now more influenced by the opinion of a blogger than a celebrity when it comes to learning more about products or making a purchase.

The BlogHer 2011 Social Media Matters Study, co-sponsored by Ketchum, one of the largest global communications consultancies, also shows that 78% of the female American adult online population are active social media users, and of those, nearly twice as many (20%) are motivated to consider products promoted by or with a blogger they know, than by promotions featuring a celebrity (13%).The study also reveals that the introduction of more sophisticated mobile platforms and web applications have transformed many more digital users into “early adopters”, illustrated by rapid mainstream adoption of new digital services, such as online deal sites (such as Groupon), mobile gaming, location-based apps (such as Foursquare), and smartphone apps.

The study, fielded by Nielsen Company and BlogHer to nationally representative samples, was conducted to gather insights on current social media trends among women, both in the US general online population and members of the BlogHer community.

“Over the last four years we have measured and reported the growing trust women have in the bloggers they read, and how that translates directly into influence and purchasing decisions,” said Elisa Camahort Page, BlogHer Co-founder and COO. “In 2011, we can see that this trust has paid off, as readers report that high satisfaction with the results of such purchases regularly send them back to blogs and social media to seek out recommendations by bloggers they trust.”

Early Adoption is the New Mainstream
The rise in mobile devices has made it easy for consumers to rapidly embrace new applications and digital services. The study found that adults of all ages are using the following mobile devices and apps once a week or more:

  •     After only two years in the consumer marketplace, online coupon services such as Groupon and LivingSocial are used by over half of women online (51%).
  •     After less than two years on the market, location-based apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla are now used by 16% of all online adults…an adoption rate that took Twitter twice as long to achieve. It should be noted, however, that this is one of the few apps and tools where women do not lead in adoption, with only 12% of women using these services actively.
  •     4 out of 10 women use smartphones and related apps.
  •     22% of women are active in mobile gaming.

“With the steady increase of mobile adoption, truly understanding the myriad ways a brand’s stakeholders use mobile technologies and developing a customized mobile strategy to reach them is critical.” said Nicholas Scibetta, Partner/Director, Global Media Network at Ketchum. “Creating a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to reach the masses is sure to reach but a few.”

Blogs and Other Social Media Increasingly Tapped for Purchasing Decisions
This year’s survey shows that blogs play an increasingly influential role in people’s purchasing decisions:

  •     Blog opinions matter: 53% of U.S. women blog readers have purchased a product based on a blog recommendation. That number soars to 80% of the BlogHer population.
  •     The top reason the general population trusts blog advice is because of their satisfaction with past purchases based on blog recommendations.
  •     The top three types of products that the general population seeks reviews and recommendations for on blogs are consumer electronics (35%), computer hardware/software (33%) and movies (33%). Among the BlogHer community, the priorities shift to food/beverage (67%) and clothing/shoes (67%), with movies coming in third at 62%.
  •     Almost half (47%) of U.S. blog readers tap into blogs for finding new trends or ideas, 35% for finding out about new products, and one in four for help with making a purchasing decision.

“With social media being viewed as one of the most promising media vehicles by CMOs and other senior marketers, this findings in this study will be particularly useful in developing strategic marketing initiatives,” said Kelley Skoloda, Partner/Director, Global Brand Marketing Practice at Ketchum. “Consumers are adopting social media and digital applications at unprecedented rates, so marketers have more opportunities than ever for two-way conversation and relationships. Marketers must seize these opportunities now or risk falling behind their competitors in the race for online consumer engagement.”

Promoting, not Preventing, People Connections
Despite suggestions of “online fatigue” and concerns that growing use of the Internet may affect the quality of people’s interpersonal relationships, the 2011 Social Media Matters Study found that Americans online are continuing to use blogs and other social media actively, and many see social networking as a way to preserving connections with family and friends. Specific findings include:

  •     Blog usage and Facebook usage continue to grow at an equal and modest rate year over year with women (~10%).
  •     Tech love is all about connecting: 58% of women spend more or about the same time with their friends online as they do offline, yet only 5% feel that social impact has had a negative effect. When asked why technology makes women feel hopeful about the future, the top answer (67%) was that social media makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends.

“Women who use social media cite not only the value social media brings to their own lives, but also credit the voice they see it giving to women around the world,” concluded BlogHer’s Elisa Camahort Page. “They clearly see the array of digital tools and technologies available to them as a tremendous source of information, connection, entertainment and empowerment.”

An executive summary of the 2011 Social Media Matters Study can be found at http://www.blogher.com/2011-social-media-matters-study and http://www.ketchum.com/BlogHer_Social_Media_Matters.

The study is conducted annually to show purchasing behaviors of social media users, probe how users feel about the role of technology in their lives, compare media usage patterns and gauge the level of relevance among different types of media.

About the Survey
The 2011 Social Media Matters Study compares two user samples:

  •     A general U.S. population sample was fielded from a Nielsen Company panel. The results were weighted by age to be representative of U.S. online characteristics. There were 1,771 respondents. The margin of error at 99% confidence is +/- 2.2%.
  •     A BlogHer Network sample, fielded across an audience of 26 million users, consisted of a BlogHer web network intercept sample of 2,861 respondents. The margin of error at 99% confidence is +/- 1.7%.
  •     All portions of the study were conducted in March 2011. The data is comparative. Responses from the two samples were not combined.

About BlogHer
Reaching more than 26 million women each month (Nielsen Site Census, January 2011), BlogHer is the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online. Founded in February 2005 by Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone, BlogHer’s mission is to create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. Today BlogHer creates opportunities for members via a community hub (http://www.blogher.com), annual conferences and a publishing network of more than 2,500 qualified, contextually targeted blog affiliates. BlogHer provides the highest quality content on a range of topics, with all blogs continually edited to meet strict editorial standards, including content quality, category relevance and blog frequency. BlogHer enjoys a strategic partnership with iVillage, part of Women@NBCU. BlogHer’s investors are Venrock, GE/NBC Universal's Peacock Equity Fund, and Azure Capital Partners.

About Ketchum
A communications innovator and the 2010 Large PR Firm of the Year (Holmes Report and PR News), Ketchum is a leading global communications consultancy and, operating as Ketchum Pleon, is the largest, most diversified agency in the U.K. and continental Europe. With five global practices – Brand Marketing, Corporate, Healthcare, Food & Nutrition, and Technology – and specialty capabilities that include Access Communications (high- and consumer-tech PR), Concentric Communications (experiential marketing, events and meetings), MMG (clinical trial recruitment), Ketchum Global Research Network, Ketchum Pleon Change (change and workplace communications) and Ketchum Sports & Entertainment, Ketchum leverages its marketing and corporate communication expertise to build brands and reputations for clients. For more information on Ketchum, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC), visit http://www.ketchum.com.

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Elaine Wu
BlogHer
650-551-1364 245
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Alicia Stetzer
Ketchum Public Relations
646-935-3910
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