RIO DE JANEIRO: A majority of young consumers in Brazil use the internet to find out information about brands before making purchase decisions.

TNS, the research firm, surveyed 1,000 people aged 16–35 years old in the country in order to gain an insight into their preferences and activities relating to the web.

It found that 99% of respondents sent and received email, while 93% were members of at least one social network and 92% used instant messaging services.

More specifically, 43% of the netizens registered on sites like Facebook and Orkut frequently logged on to read and share information.

A further 32% said these platforms gave them valuable personal space, 24% liked being part of a group of online friends and 21% said social networks provided room for self-expression and an escape from the pressures of life.

Ana Sequeira, senior account manager at TNS, said social networks thus provided a unique opportunity for brands to connect with consumers, but added this approach must "be subtle and not intrusive."

Starbucks, the US coffee house chain, provided an example of this process in practice, drawing together various celebrities pledging their support for victims of the Haiti earthquake on its Facebook page.

"This was an effective way of marketing without resorting to direct advertising," said Sequeira.

More broadly, 92% of contributors to the poll searched for information about brands using e-commerce and price comparison sites, with 76% accessing online forums and blogs for the same reason.

Elsewhere, 56% of participants wrote their own blogs and 42% also liked to browse this form of user-generated content.

A further 63% regularly posted comments about their experiences with various products and services on the internet, and 52% used blogs to locate this kind of information prior to making a purchase.

Overall, 50% of those surveyed said they had changed their decision about buying a product because of negative electronic word-of-mouth, while 28% opted to acquire something after reading positive feedback.

Data sourced from Cidade Business; additional content by Warc staff