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More than two-thirds (68%) of online Americans say they visit online blogs, communities or social networks, and 33% engage in product research online to help them make purchase decisions, according to (pdf) the August/September 2008 Insight Report from MarketTools.

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The frequency of social media visits also is on the rise, with 42% of adults saying they visit these sites more now than they did six months ago.

Social Media by Generation

Nearly one in five of all adults (19%) say they visit blogs, communities or social networks daily, with a higher percentage of women saying so (22% vs. 16%). Percentages of daily visitors decrease as respondents get older:

  • 33% of Generation-Y respondents (people mostly in their 20s) visit these sites every day.
  • 17% of Generation X (mostly in their 30s and early 40s) visit these sites daily.
  • 11% of Baby Boomers (in their mid 40s to early 60s) visit social media sites daily.
  • 8% percent of Seniors visit daily.

Social Media for Product Research

Many Americans visit blogs, communities and social networks with the specific intent of researching products:

  • 33% of visitors say they visit these sites to engage in product research before making a purchasing decision.
  • Affluent visitors (with annual incomes of more than $75K) are most likely to research products online before buying (43%).
  • Baby Boomer visitors are significantly more likely than other groups to read or post comments about products and services on these sites (37%).
  • Baby Boomers (63%), along with Generation X (59%), are significantly more likely than other groups to visit the corporate websites of product or service providers.

Impact on Purchasing Decisions

The research also indicates that blogs, communities and social networks have a direct impact on purchasing decisions:

  • 47% of all respondents say that these sites have influenced their decision to purchase particular brands or services to at least some extent.

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  • 26% of all respondents actually changed their minds about buying a product or service because of what they read on a blog, community or social network.
  • Women are significantly more likely (29%) than men (22%) to change their minds about a purchase because of these sites.
  • Those in middle-income households (those with yearly income of $35K to $75K), at 30%, and those from Generation Y (35%) and Generation X (30%), are the most likely to change their minds because of the information they read on social media sites.

Additional findings:

  • MySpace, eBay and YouTube are the sites selected most often from a list of social-networking sites. About one in three adults visits each of these sites.
  • 51% of visitors say the reason they visit social networking sites, communities and blogs is “to have fun.”
  • Other popular reasons for visiting these sites include reading/posting about current events (42%), social networking to meet/date (40%) and to educate themselves (38%).
  • The most popular types of “regular” websites visited include company websites (56%), news (56%), search (50%), weather (50%), entertainment (45%) and health/medical (41%).

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“Our research sheds new light on just how ingrained blogs, communities and social networking sites have become in our daily lives,” said Beth Rounds, SVP of research solutions at MarketTools. “Insight into what drives consumers to buy, how to tailor content to different demographics, and even how to better engage with target consumers in these increasingly influential online forums, will all have a significant impact on organizations’ success and competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

About the research: MarketTools Insight Reports are regular reports of findings on topical, national issues of interest. Data is based on feedback from 1,000 online US respondents age 18+, drawn from ZoomPanel, MarketTools’ proprietary online sample source.

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