'Old' Media Sources Are Consumers' First Step in Buying: Report

17 December 2008

NEW YORK: Eighty-four percent of so-called 'digital influencers' are motivated to go online to seek information only after exposure to specific references in magazines, newspapers, radio and TV.

That's the startling discovery of a survey by the New York office of Publicis unit MSL Worldwide, a specialist in insight research, PR and technology.

According to deputy managing director, Renee Wilson, the study confirms that traditional media sources are shaping opinions in the rapidly evolving digital-media landscape.

Comments Wilson: "Everybody wants to talk about how it's all about digital and we certainly believe that it is the future. But traditional media still has the capability to spark word-of-mouth.

"And for marketers, it highlights the fact that influencer-marketing campaigns can't only be digital-based efforts. "[Such] campaigns [need] to leverage both traditional and online tools to connect with consumers."

The study explores how influencers, once motivated to go online, operate within three specific categories: Green issues; Beauty; and Health.

It found that influencers in the environmental space spend a large amount of time getting information from non-profit, association and academic websites, with 42% saying they do so at least once a week.

To establish a baseline for its findings, MS&L ranked  online-information sources according to the frequency with which  material from those sites is passed by the most powerful influencers to like-minded others. An index score of (100) indicates that the content is shared every time.

  • Content from websites of environment-related publications scored (60); nonprofit or academic websites (59) and general new-media websites (54) have the highest share-ability scores; social networks (27), online community sites (21) and banner ads have the lowest.
  • In the beauty sector, beauty company and product websites (70) tend to be more effective sources in generating and driving word-of-mouth than those in either the personal-health or environmental-cause categories. But the highest share-ability score in this sector was notched by 'online communities' (90).
  • Still in the beauty sector, where share-ability averages (69), consumer opinion may likely motivate more sharing than the other categories. Blogs, discussion boards and chat rooms all had an above average share-ability index score of (76); portals and search engines were below average at (48).
  • As to health issues, national and local government websites  are the most shareable (71) sources of information for digital influencers. That's despite the fact that these sites are not as heavily trafficked as other health information sites.
  • The majority of digital personal-health influencers (54%) spend their time collecting information about nutrition, yet less than half share that content with others. Other areas of interest include health conditions (53%) and wellness (47%).
  • Four in 10 go online frequently to look up information about exercise programs and fitness (40%), prevention (39%), symptoms (39%), medications (38%), dieting (37%) and treatments (36%).
In sum, says MS&L's Renee Wilson: "This [study] just further clarifies that when it comes to influencer marketing, or PR for that matter, it's not one size fits all. I know people know that, but it's really niche when you look at the motivations of the influencers and where they go for information."

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff