Social Media Link Releases Third Annual Social Recommendations Index to Show How Consumer Conversation Impacts Purchase

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The Social Recommendations Index, an annual survey of 21,000 active users of social media, conducted by Social Media Link, aims to discover how consumer recommendations and social networks impact purchase decisions. 

This year's index uncovered how reviews and recommendations play a role in the entire path to purchase. During the busy time of holiday shopping, consumers undeniably rely on the latest trends and advice from their friends and family to help plan and decide various purchase decision. Take a look at the infographic below for some key highlights from the study. 

Some key takeaways include: 


It’s abundantly clear that the proliferation of consumer opinions across the Internet, whether through social media or other online channels, has impacted every stage in the path to purchase. While the words “reviews and recommendations” are likely at the forefront of every marketer’s 2016 objectives, it’s important to remember that consumers don’t view these online channels as a whole; they carefully weigh different sources with varying levels of trust and impact. 


For brand marketers, it’s imperative to consider how consumers leverage different relationships and online channels. Most importantly, brand marketers will benefit from looking at “reviews and recommendations” as a diverse set of strategies tailored for different audiences at different stages of the purchase cycle. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing consumer opinions and word-of-mouth can lead to missed opportunities or spending dollars where and when it doesn’t make sense. 


Looking to grow awareness about your brand? Prompting YouTube reviews might be an interesting bet for 2016. Need help educating consumers when they’re considering your brand? Time to make sure your presence on a retailer’s and your own brand website are integrated with opinions from other consumers. Sparking advocacy? Make a plan to allocate some free experiences with your product as a catalyst for reviews, and drive advocates to share with family and friends – their efforts will be most successful in driving brand results. 


Awareness Stage

  • 83% of respondents hear about new products on social media before any other source at least once a month 

  • Retail websites and Facebook (54%) and brand/manufacturer websites (51%) held consistent with 2014 survey results as being among the most common places to learn about new brands or products by those surveyed.

  • Using videos on YouTube to learn about new products and brands has increased by 9 percentage points since 2014’s survey results.

Consideration Stage

  • Retail website or a brand’s website were the most popular destinations to gain more information about a brand/product – held consistently since 2014’s results. 

  • 67% always or often specifically seek out a family member or friend’s recommendation when gathering information about a product/brand purchase. 

  • 41% of respondents will be influenced to purchase by as few as 1 to 4 reviews. 

  • Personal stories, a list of pros and cons and the star rating are the most influential features to respondents when viewing online reviews.  

  • Sites are weighted differently with regards to trust. 71% of respondents said they somewhat or completely trust Facebook, 68% trust retail websites 66% trust online communities for reviews/comments about a product/service. Close to 60% trust a brand’s website. 

  • Facilitated/sponsored posts/reviews don’t hinder trust. Respondents don’t mind if a friend or family member receives a free product (87% either trust somewhat or trust completely), or even if they are paid to review a product (71% trust paid friend or family member reviews). Fewer respondents trust when bloggers are paid to write a review about a brand/product (46%). 

  • 55% specifically seek out a positive review on a retail or manufacturer website. Respondents took to mostly (84%), or using Google (61%). 56% use brand websites. 

  • 46% seek out a professional’s recommendation, 35% seek out a blogger’s recommendation. 

  • Of those who recently sought out reviews, 94% used devices at home to look at online reviews or comments about products/services, mostly on their smartphones (59%) or laptop computers (54%).

  • One-third of respondents will use a smartphone in-store to check reviews/comments about a product or service.

  • A celebrity endorsement doesn’t offer much value in the consideration/research stage. Respondents would seek out an advertisement (26%) more often than seek out celebrities (13%) for information when researching a product/brand.

  • YouTube usage as a channel to gather information about brands/products to make a purchase decision has increased by 11 percentage points since 2014’s survey results. Two-thirds of those surveyed use video reviews at least some of the time before making a purchase decision – mostly on computers and electronics (44%), personal care items (44%) and children’s products (including toys) (41%).

  • Trying to drive video reviews? Remember the source of the video review matters to 67% of those surveyed as to whether it is trustworthy or not. The type of video, whether it is a tutorial, unboxing, etc., matters to more than half (55%), and production quality impacts trust for 38%. Video length matters to only 19%. 

  • In general, consumers trust online reviews about Personal Care (69%), Household (69%), Apparel products (69%) and Restaurants (68%) most.


  • A positive experience is a motivating factor for sharing for 87% of survey respondents. Brands who deliver free products prompt 72% to share online about their experience. 

  • Almost two-thirds of survey respondents are most likely to share via Facebook about their purchases. 

  • One-third of respondents will connect with a brand or other users of a brand post-purchase on Facebook. About two in ten will connect via a brand’s website, retail website or a brand-owned community. 

  • Most respondents enjoy sharing about Personal Care products (70%), Household items (66%), Food and Grocery brands (60%), Healthy Care Items (59%), Apparel (57%), Restaurants (56%) and Kid’s Products (55%). 

Jordan BenTwitterLinkedIn

Jordan is the Director of Marketing at Social Media Link. She oversees marketing communication and is responsible for strategic business efforts that help educate brands on the power of Social Media Link's offerings. Fun Fact: Jordan can solve a Rubik’s cube and her favorite food is pickles.