Buzz varies by platform

06 April 2011

LONDON: Online buzz about brands differs in tone and content depending on the platform used by consumers, a new European study has found.

A report by Microsoft Advertising estimated that Facebook has 226m European members, standing at 117m for Windows Live Hotmail and 99m concerning Windows Live Messenger.

Half of this connected population, 255m-strong in the aggregate, utilise two or more of these properties, usually for varying purposes, as Live Messenger is a "one-to-one" channel but Facebook is "one-to-many".

To gain an insight into evolving habits, Microsoft Advertising tracked the real-time conversations of 600 people from the UK, France and Spain for a week, yielding 4,500 engagements related to goods and services.

In terms of overall communications, the average person sent and received 26 emails to and from friends, and participated in 16 usage sessions on Live Messenger.

The typical Facebook user logged 30 "interactions", incorporating 11 status updates and 19 newsfeed check-ins.

Some 46% of the sample talked about items they were planning to buy via Instant Messenger, while Hotmail and Facebook both recorded 39% on this metric.

More specifically, there were 3.4 brand-related discussions on Live Messenger per person, reaching 2.5 for Hotmail, and 1.7 across Facebook's pages.

The number of netizens looking for additional information regarding home electronics before obtaining a product stood at 68%, measured against 6% covering fast food.

Indeed, Microsoft Advertising suggested travel, auto, electronics, telecoms and finance acquisitions were normally "research-led", as other segments tended to be based on "impulse".

Overall, 41% of discussions mentioning goods on Hotmail fell into the "research-led" area, compared with 36% registered by Live Messenger and 31% for Facebook.

For interactions fitting this profile, 50% essentially built awareness, 31% expressed positive or negative views, 8% took the form of recommendations and 11% were merely "general chat."

For impulse sectors, 38% of the monitored dialogue met the first of these criteria, 37% provided a favourable or critical opinion of a brand and 10% equated to pure advocacy.

Discussions linked to the earliest stage of the purchase process peaked at 47% for Hotmail, as Instant Messenger secured 43%, and Facebook 37%.

However, the social network delivered 37% concerning positive or negative product assessments, two percentage points ahead of Messenger and six points clear of Hotmail.

Similarly, recommendation ratings hit 10% for Facebook, beating Hotmail by one point and Messenger by two, and it also headed the "general chat" charts.

"Our research shows that the three platforms are sued for different types of conversations, and that the sorts of conversations taking place reflect the types of products being discussed," the study said.

"For example, Hotmail is used most often to discuss research-led purchases, which is why many people use Hotmail to learn about or share information on brands."

At the awareness-building stage, 20% of conversations were then shared with other web users, 21% solicited a request for supplementary details, 11% boosted consideration levels, and 10% resulted in a concrete purchase.

These figures came in at 15%, 21%, 16% and 12% respectively where complimentary or unflattering viewpoints had been spread elsewhere.

Recommendations exerted a particularly powerful impact, as while only 14% were shared, 25% engendered appeals for further product specifics, 28% enhanced consideration, and 21% fuelled an actual purchase.

Nearly 50% more conversations on Facebook were immediately followed by a purchase, although the social network posted the lowest scores of the three sites in terms of sharing or requests for additional information.

Data sourced from Microsoft Advertising; additional content by Warc staff