FARMINGTON HILLS, MICHIGAN: Positive or negative word-of-mouth on Facebook can exert a major influence on how likely a member of the social network is to buy a product, according to a new report.

Morpace, the consultancy, surveyed 1,000 consumers in the US in order to gain an understanding of their attitudes and activities on the social network, which has 400 million active users worldwide.

It reported that 83% of contributors in the 18–34 year old demographic were members of Facebook, as were 61% of 35–54 year olds, and 48% of people over the age of 55 years old. 

Two-thirds of participants spent between five minutes and 30 minutes on its pages per visit, with 20% browsing content and sending messages for half an hour or more, and 8% doing so for over an hour.

Furthermore, 55% of the panel logged in to the social network on at least a daily basis, with a third returning with an even greater level of frequency.

Overall, 41% of the sample said one of their primary motivations for signing up as the fan of a brand or company was "to let my friends know what products I support."

A further 37% had opted to connect with a corporate member of Facebook in this way to receive coupons and discounts from the organisation in question.

Some 36% of those polled agreed that this website was an effective medium for researching potential purchases, a figure that rose to 38% for men and fell to 34% for women.

Totals on this measure reached a high of 50% for Hispanic consumers, 46% for their Asian counterparts and 44% for the African Americans featured in the survey.

More than a third of respondents had also held conversations about restaurants, grocery stores and food products with their friends on Facebook.

Around a quarter had discussed technology brands, with the sportswear and equipment category on 15%, and children's toys and games on 12%.

In all, 68% of contributors stated that favourable feedback from one of their friends on Facebook would encourage them to buy a specific product.

"The results show us that Facebook is a tool for retailers to communicate directly with their target marketer," Kristen Dunyes, Morpace's retail vice president, said.

"Retailers can offer consumers product information and exclusive coupons and discounts to create viral buzz among Facebook consumers."

Facebook recently announced that it intends to drop the term "fan" and replace it with "like", a move it suggested would encourage more people to follow brands.

Data sourced from Morpace; additional content by Warc staff