Does social media sway online shopping?

Two of the dominant trends of the Internet over the past decade, social media and e-commerce, have overlapped very little and without much success. Retailers have tried to cultivate communities of shoppers with similar interests on their sites, without much uptake. Plenty of brands set up Twitter and Facebook pages, only to find that marketing to consumers in a social venue does not necessarily spur conversations about those brands.

Online stores shouldn’t give up on social just yet, according to the results from a recent survey of over 45,000 users of the social network myYearbook. While collecting data to explain why more teenagers don’t use Twitter, myYearbook CEO Geoff Cook graciously agreed to put my questions about social media and shopping to his panel of respondents. Here are the results:

As you can see, the majority of social network users have not vetted purchase decisions with their online friends. But of the 17%, or more than 5,700 who have, their responses are surprising:

* 64% posted about an item they would buy in a store, not online

* 81% received advice from their friends and followers

* 74% of those who received advice were influenced by it

Finally, different categories of products, like cell phones, movie tickets, music, and video games, were much more likely to be discussed in status updates than others, like appliances:

Does your online circle of friends help you make decisions about what to buy? Please leave your thoughts and experiences below, as I'm looking for personal stories to include in a larger piece on this topic.

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