Online retailers have seen evidence of their social media investments paying off with the revelation that 40% of consumers admit to being influenced by networks when buying online.

According to a new study from market researcher Mintel, 79% of consumers have viewed or shared content from a company’s social media page. Younger browsers are most receptive to this particular form of advertising; the study finding that 21% of males aged 18-34 have bought a product straight after interacting with an ad on the likes of Facebook and Twitter.  

What is perhaps more interesting for marketers is the rapid uptake in certain techniques within social media campaigns. Native advertising, for instance, is said to be growing immensely across networks as brands look for more subtle ways of making their presence felt.

Mintel went on to warn retailers to be patient with their activity on social. Many consumers appear to be using networks for initial product research but it seems that very few are converting straight from a shared link.

Connecting brands with consumers

The findings indicated that social is far more of an ice-breaker than a deal-clincher, as one quarter of networkers said they searched for a brand after seeing them advertised on social. A total of 28% went one further by visiting a company’s site in the moments after being exposed to their social ad.

A large proportion of these introductions may well be coming from Facebook, incidentally the world’s most popular social network, which 86% of the study group visited at least once per week.

YouTube placed second in terms of popularity, on 60%, followed by Google+ (43%), Twitter (37%), LinkedIN (30%) and shopper-friendly networks Pinterest (30%) and Instagram (28%).

Unfortunately a straight 50% of social network users claimed that company posts on such sites did not influence their product research. However, techniques like native advertising, or the very natural merger of sponsored content within related media, could provide brands with a way into their thought streams.

Spend continues to rise

Despite some shoppers appearing reluctant to gain product inspiration from social networks, Mintel technology analyst Bryant Harland said this would not stop brands from advertising on the channel.

“Social advertising spend is on the rise and shows no sign of slowing down,” he commented.

“Although third-party review websites and the brand’s website are the top avenues for research overall, companies can still gain considerable traction by making product information readily available through social media.”

Overall spend on social media in the US is predicted to reach $11 billion by 2017 as brands look for ways of boosting their online fanbases.