Wow! Top execs say they are influenced by social networks

This is a big deal: A new study shows that social networks affect business decisions...

This new research study from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) is important because it shows that company executives are influenced by their online networks. And the trend is growing. The influence on business decisions by online communities is at its highest in three years.

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

Here are some key findings from this survey 365 business professionals:

- 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

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These are all very interesting findings. Especially the high level of trust that decision makers have in regards to their online communities. It's good to have some real data to match the anecdotal stories and observations.

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 an important factor and it should encourage people to become involved in social media regardless of age or experience.

There is more survey data 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