SEATTLE: Some 71% of Americans discuss their opinions about brands on social media services, but only 38% of consumers use this medium to find out the views of others in this area, Razorfish has found.

The digital agency, owned by Microsoft but currently thought to be up for sale, surveyed 1,000 US web users, divided evenly between those who frequently used social networks and a group that was more representative of the population as a whole.

It reported that 80% of the entire panel belonged to one social network, while 40% of participants were members of at least two such sites.

A total of 51% of respondents in the "social media sample" spent over six hours a week on web properties such as Facebook and YouTube, compared with 20% of the "generic sample".

In terms of sharing their opinions about products and services via these channels, 2% of those polled stated they did so every day, while 8% argued this occurred "every few days".

A further 19% discussed brands in this way "every few weeks", compared with 42% participating in this activity "every few months" and 29% who said they "never" did so.

In all, 29% of participants also said they had linked to a brand on a social media utility, reaching a high of 36% in the group skewed towards these portals.

Furthermore, 57% of web users with these affiliations reported that they visited related brand pages every few weeks or months, with 27% doing so every few days, or even on a daily basis.

A total of 21% of participants also said they were "very likely" to associate with brands in the music and entertainment category via social media platforms.

This figure fell to 16% in the technology and electronics sector, 10% for retail and apparel, 9% for travel, 8% for automotive, and a low of 5% for financial services.

Consumers' "offline" friends were the most trusted source of information when making purchase decisions, with 73% saying they were confident in this group.

This compared with just 33% of netizens who agreed with this statement in relation to their online "friends".

By contrast, 52% said they trusted TV ads, with 47% according this status to "expert online reviews", 42% to ads on social networks, 37% to online video ads, and 31% to banner advertising.

Anonymous consumer reviews registered a score of 36%, with search engine results receiving positive feedback from just 22% of those polled.

By medium, 42% of consumers saw print ads as being "authentic", with 40% of consumers saying the same for TV spots, compared with 24% for radio advertising and 14% for mobile ads.

This figure dwindled to 21% for ads on blogs, 22% for executions hosted on social networking websites, and 12% for banner ads.

In all, 78% of respondents also said their "close family and friends" had a "heavy influence" during the "awareness" phase of the purchase process, with 42% saying the same during the "consideration" phase, and 79% for the "action" phase.

By contrast, contributors to social media sites – or "social influencers" – had an impact score of 49% in the first two stages, with their importance decreasing to just 18% in the "action" phase.

Corporate blogs had the most impact in the "awareness" phase, when 46% of contributors said they had a "heavy influence", with "independent blogs" also reaching a high of 59% at this point. (These two groups were seen as "key influencers.")

Anonymous peer reviews, also in the "social influencer" category, scored 34% in terms of being highly influential in the awareness phase, and posted 43

Data sourced from Razorfish; additional content by WARC staff