WASHINGTON: Only 5% of US adult consumers using social media sites say that these have any significant influence on their purchasing decisions according to a new study.

Gallup polled 18,000 people about the influence of social media on their buying decisions as part of its State of the American Consumer report and found that 62% claimed social media had "no influence at all" while 30% admitted it had "some influence".

And while millennials, a group brands often regard as a core audience on social media, were more inclined to be swayed, almost half (48%) said social networking sites were not a factor in their decision making process.

These broad trends held true even among those consumers who professed to 'liking' or following a brand. One third (34%) said social media had no influence while 53% admitted to some degree of influence.

In fact the great majority of people using sites like Facebook and Twitter were primarily interested in connecting with friends and family. Fully 94% employed social media for this reason compared to a passive 29% who wanted to follow trends or find products reviews and information and a more active 20% who wished to comment on events or to write product reviews.

This suggested, said Gallup, that "many companies have social media strategies in place that may be largely misdirected", adding that "social media initiatives may actually be the least effective method for influencing consumers' buying decisions".

Its research showed that consumers were in fact far more likely to ask friends and family, or various experts, about brands, products and services. "Company-sponsored Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have almost no persuasive power," the report stated.

Part of the problem here is that too many companies continue to think of social media in terms of one-way communication and are failing to fully appreciate the fundamental nature of the channel they are dealing with. Consumers looking for genuine conversations require the same attitude from brands.

That means, according to the report, less hard sell and more open dialogue, interesting and original content, and timely responses to queries and complaints.

Data sourced from Gallup; additional content by Warc staff