Online Shares Could Be As Influential As In-Person Recommendations

April 30, 2014

ShareThis-Value-of-Excellent-Recommendation-Apr2014Recommendations are received with a degree of trust and influence unmatched by any paid media, according to Nielsen. Now, a new study [download page] from ShareThis produced with the Paley Center for Media finds that shared online content (via email or social networking) could have almost the same degree of influence as in-person recommendations, though it’s important to note that the analysis was limited to 3 product types. Nevertheless, the study contains some intriguing findings, also suggesting that the power of shared content exceeds that of consumer reviews.

Across the three categories – supermarket, automotive, and mini-tablet – the average lift in purchase incidence from an “excellent” online share (a strong positive one) was found to be 9.5%. What that means, according to the analysis, is that an excellent online share increases the perceived value of these products by an average of 9.5% over a neutral share. That breaks down to 11.2% for grocery items, 9.2% for automotive, and 8.1% for mini-tablets.

The average 9.5% lift measures up well next to the average lift for in-person recommendations (10.6%) and professional reviews (10.2%), while outstripping comparable figures for consumer reviews (7.3%) and consumer ratings (6.3%).

Across the three categories, the impact of a negative online share was -11%, meaning that a negative share reduced the desirability of the products by an average of 11% (it’s unclear if this is in comparison to a neutral or positive review). There was more consistency in the impact of a negative recommendation across the various methods, ranging from -10.2% for negative professional reviews to -11.3% for negative consumer ratings.

Overall, a recommendation is far more important to consumers than brand or price, per the study, with the strength of the recommendation a much more influential factor than the source of the recommendation.

In other sharing news, a new report [pdf] from AddThis finds that almost two-thirds (65%) of global content sharing in Q1 occurred from a desktop computer. (ShareThis recently found that a majority of content sharing to social platforms occurred via a mobile device during Q1.)

The AddThis study looked beyond just sharing to social networks, though. In fact, while sharing to Facebook was the pre-eminent method (26% of total sharing) in Q1, it found that copying and pasting of URLs was the second-most common way to engage with content (21%).

Not surprisingly, the methods for sharing vary by category. Following is a quick reference of the top method for sharing, by vertical, along with the peak sharing hour:

  • Entertainment: Sharing to Facebook (36%); 2-3PM ET;
  • Sports: Sharing to Facebook (36%); 11AM-12PM ET;
  • Politics: Sharing to Facebook (26%); 10-11AM ET;
  • Food: Sharing to Pinterest (46%); 11AM-12PM ET; and
  • Travel: Printing (26%); 11AM-12PM ET.

About the Data: The “Return on a Share” study, which surveyed more than 6,000 consumers, was developed by Beresford Research and conducted in two phases during late 2013 and early 2014.

Two in-depth studies were performed, one using trade-off analysis, and the other using traditional scale ratings. Both sets of studies, which surveyed 1,000 US consumers for each vertical, yielded highly similar resutls.

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