8 out of 10 U.S. internet users want to help brands

The use of social media continues to increase around the world. In the United States, 8 out of 10 Internet users currently make use of social media. Facebook remains by far the most popular site (7 in 10 are active on Facebook), followed by Twitter (25%) and LinkedIn (24%). These results are from an extensive social media study InSites Consulting conducted together with data sampling company SSI and translation agency No Problem. The key conclusions of the study show huge opportunities for companies to connect with consumers and bring them inside in the company, all the way up to the boardroom.

Key conclusions

  • Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn remain very popular, they provide a stable base in the social media landscape.
  • Rapid adoption of mobile Internet provides a further increase in the use of social media: mobile devices are clearly an accelerating factor.
  • The rising stars are Pinterest and Instagram. Consumers would prefer not to start a new social network, but there is always room for platforms with a unique function.
  • Half of consumers follow at least one brand through social media. On average, U.S. consumers interact with 6 brands actively and follow 15 passively through social media. The opportunity lies however in collaboration: 8 out of 10 consumers want to help companies offer better products and services. U.S. consumers want to participate in co-creation and companies are still insufficiently seizing the opportunity for the development of a profound ‘consumer connection’.

Smartphones lead to further growth of social media

The study shows that the use of social media is stimulated by the increasing use of the number of smartphones in the world. Consumers with a smartphone make more intensive use of social networking sites than those without a mobile internet connection. People with a smartphone are also more open to conversing with brands.
44% of U.S. Internet users have a smartphone with an internet subscription, 17% have a tablet. The increase in the number of smartphones and tablets causes an increase in the use of social media. 73% of people with mobile Internet use social media every day, this is 63% for people without a mobile connection. Social media applications are also quite popular.

“Our study clearly shows the importance of mobile Internet. Consumers use their smartphones for entertainment, but also for many practical online applications. Applications to keep an eye on the weather and navigation applications are very popular. The rapid evolution in the mobile field is giving social media renewed momentum,” explains Niels Schillewaert, PhD, Managing Partner and co-founder at InSites Consulting New York.

Pinterest and Instagram are the stars of the future

The InSites Consulting study confirms the popularity of the big three social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are still the biggest in the U.S.A. and around most of the world as well. It is moreover difficult for new social networking sites to quickly match the success of these three. The study shows that the average consumer is a member of two social networking sites. Usually this is Facebook and another site. Moreover, 95% of these users do not plan to leave and 60% do not want to create a new account. However, the study found two exceptions: Pinterest and Instagram. 10% of U.S. Internet users use Pinterest and 7% use Instagram. Both sites have the greatest growth potential. A large group of people are considering using these sites in the future.

“Consumers are clearly satisfied with the current offer of social networking sites. Only a small group of consumers keeps wanting something new. The vast majority prefer a status quo. Only sites that add something new arouse interest. This explains the success and potential of Instagram and Pinterest. Both sites offer something neither Facebook, Twitter nor LinkedIn have, hence the interest of consumers,” explains Schillewaert.

Consumers want to help companies on social media

A striking finding in this study is to what a great extent consumers are willing to help businesses. Half (53%) of U.S. social network users follow at least one brand. On average, users follow 15 brands passively and 6 brands interactively. Consumers expect these brands to primarily provide information about their products, launch attractive promotions and involve consumers to improve products. 81% of U.S. Internet users want to help brands and give them advice. They prefer doing so through a form of structural collaboration, ‘consumer consulting boards’ (or communities) – more than 65% want to do so through a form of online communities. Consumers would prefer to help existing products (73%) and services (64%) improve, but also want to help think about the products of the future (65%).

“Most companies think only about the number of fans and likes, but not about active collaboration with customers. This is a missed opportunity! Consumers generate more and faster information than ever before, but also better and more complete information due to the fact that they integrate different media. By using mobile devices and electronics consumers also generate contextual consumption information that is illustrative and generated in the heat of the moment. Research communities or ‘consumer consulting boards’ offer a unique platform to engage consumers in the strategy of a company. Consumers want and can provide value for new product development, but also for the development of advertising and content marketing. Unfortunately, most companies do not yet see this opportunity,” concludes Niels Schillewaert, PhD, Managing Partner of InSites Consulting New York.

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