We know consumers are adopting social media in record numbers and corporations are reaching out to find them. What hasn’t been evident, until now, is whether decision makers, the leaders of industry including CEOs, directors, and managers, are doing the same.
Research conducted by The Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) <http://sncr.org/> reveals decision makers are not only using social media, but their experiences are influencing the decision making process.
The findings, from a survey of 365 business professionals, including myself, found professionals are using social networks to create Social Media Peer Groups (SMPG). Respondents reported they consult with SMPGs to solicit information while making decisions. A higher level of trust still exists for information gathered in person but 92% of those surveyed say they “strongly or somewhat trust” their online interactions. Additionally, a high level of trust was reported for information found online, 83% said they “strongly or somewhat trust” social media sources.
The average professional utilized three to five social networks, but the Big 2 (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) were most common. The majority of respondents said they did not want to be sold or marketed to. This is counter intuitive as online marketing was noted as a “preferred activity” for their own companies.
I was intrigued by two of the conclusions reached by the researchers <http://everydayinfluence.typepad.com/everyday_influence/2009/11/the-new-symbiosis-of-professional-networks-social-medias-impact-on-business-and-decision-making-.html> who devised the study. First, traditional cycles of decision making are being disrupted by SMPGs. They note that those surveyed were seeking information from outside sources over their own corporate Intranets and other internal sources. Second, managing and influencing <http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jun2009/ca20090619_923770.htm> decision makers will increasingly become a challenge for marketers.
It is almost instinctive that we would trust advice from peers over advice from sources we do not know or who we feel are only out to sell us something. Social media gives decision makers the ability to bypass vendors, paid consultants, trade publications, even employees and managers to find relevant information that will help them reach conclusions.
I was not surprised by the outcome of the study. Social media has become an ingrained part of my own life and increasingly integrated into my workflow. While my own SMPG contains employees and clients, it is a much larger and more diverse organization than I would ever be able to assemble (or afford) in a physical office.
In addition, from the larger network created by connecting my own SMPG with the SMPG’s of my peers, the enormity of advice and information that is available and generated with authority is uplifting!
Michelle Ashby is the CEO/President of Tipping Point Media in Rochester.