Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

SNCR Research: Social Media IS Influencing Business Decisions

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 17, 2009

A new research study from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) has found that senior executives are affected by social media and that the influence on online communities on business decisions has grown over the past three years.

The research was conducted by Don Bulmer from SAP and Vanessa DiMauro.

Some of the key findings:

- Professional decision-making is becoming more social - enter the era of Social Media Peer Groups (SMPG)

  • Traditional influence cycles are being disrupted by Social Media as decision makers utilize social networks to inform and validate decisions
  • Professionals want to be collaborative in the decision-cycle but not be marketed or sold to online; however online marketing is a preferred activity by companies.

- Professional networks are emerging as decision-support tools

  • Decision-makers are broadening reach to gather information especially among active users

- Professionals trust online information almost as much as information gotten from in-person

  • Information obtained from offline networks still have highest levels of trust with slight advantage over online (offline: 92% - combined strongly/somewhat trust; online: 83% combined strongly/somewhat trust)

- Reliance on web-based professional networks and online communities has increased significantly over the past 3 years

  • Three quarters of respondents rely on professional networks to support business decisions
  • Reliance has increased for essentially all respondents over the past three years

- Social Media use patterns are not pre-determined by age or organizational affiliation

  • Younger (20-35) and older professionals (55+) are more active users of social tools than middle aged professionals.
  • There are more people collaborating outside their company wall than within their organizational intranet

Foremski's Take:

These are interesting findings particularly the level of trust that decision makers have towards their online communities, it is much higher than for other types of online information.

Also, the finding that age is NOT a factor in social media use is very interesting. There is a myth that younger people are heavier users or have mastered social media to a greater extent. This shows that age is not a factor and it should lead to broader adoption of social media for decision support.

There is more information here on Don Bulmer's blog: Everyday Influence: SNCR Research Reveals Social Media's Impact on Business and Decision Making

[I'm a Founding Fellow of SNCR - a Palo Alto based think tank focused on research into emerging media technologies.]

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The methodology for this study involved a mixed methods approach supported by quantitative data gathered via online survey of 356 professionals to understand their perceptions and experiences with social media in support of their decision-making. Select interviews of 12 professionals were also conducted using a semi-structured interview guide as part of the second phase of the study.
Key demographics of the research include:

  • Close to a quarter (23%) of respondents identified themselves as CEO of their organization; 50% as "Director" (24%) "Manager" (24%)
  • Company size ranged from less than 100 to over 50,000 full-time employees
  • Age was well distributed with the greatest proportion in the 36-45 range
  • 25 countries were represented, with 58% of respondents living in the US
  • All respondents were either the decision makers or influenced the decision process within their company or business unit


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