Did Gallup get it wrong about social media?

When I saw the headline: ‘Americans Say Social Media Have Little Sway on Purchases. Vast majority use social media to connect with friends, family’, I was, to put it mildly, intrigued.

After all, a lot of brands and businesses are pouring resources into connecting with people on social networks. A lot of agencies and consultants are, too.

Couple that with the fact that the report was based on a survey by the venerable Gallop organization and I was curious about the results.

First the good news
Companies that engage with their customers in an authentic way, rather than just using social media to sell, can encourage them to help spread the word.

Many of us already knew that.  But a little reinforcement is a good thing.

Now the data
The big insight – or really, the angle used to grab people’s attention – is this: ‘62% in the U.S. say Facebook and Twitter, among other sites, do not have any influence on their decisions to purchase products.’

Judging from the coverage it’s been getting, it’s certainly accomplished that goal.

However, if you dig deeper into how the responses vary by demographics, you get a different picture.

Essentially, the older folks who were always skeptical about social media still aren’t giving it much of a chance – or aren’t admitting to it yet.

Here’s the breakdown: Traditionalists (75%), Boomers (68%) and Gen X (57%) say social media has no effect on what they buy.

On the flip side, half of Millennials, say social media affects does affect their purchase decisions (and so do 40% of Gen X).

What does that say?
It reinforces the very real media/communications generation gap we’re living through and shows that too many people in my generation and older refuse to see life through anyone’s lens but their own. For brands, media, marketers and communicators, it’s yet another call to action that what worked in the past is less effective and innovation must continue.

And it’s a reminder to watch and listen to Millennials and how they use and interact with social and tech. That’s where we’ll see the sparks that lead to new ideas.

Now, being in PR, I don’t begrudge Gallop an attention-grabbing headline. But I think they should be a bit more mindful of spin.

And they could have dug deeper into the results and sliced and diced the data to offer fresh insights. Rather than holding up a mirror that simply reflects the shaky way things are, they could have shed a light on where we’re heading and what that could mean to marketers in the not too distant years to come.

What do you think? Does social media have any effect on your decision to purchase?

About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman is a digital, social media and communications strategist, content marketer, social media trainer and instructor and co-founder of three PR agencies. He blogs at myPALETTE and hosts the Inside PR podcast.


For me absolutely - I search for products and reviews and that always influences my purchase decisions.


Great article Martin, I too am itching to find out why social media doesn't influence purchases. As a communications volunteer at myfundpartner, I find no other platform delivers messages in such a short, quick and visual manner as social media. Yet communities don't seem to respond to calls of action as much as they do through other media. I completely agree with you, more insight should be made available on the cause of this trend.  


A good lesson to always look beyond the headline!

martinwaxman moderator

@ShingiPReaction Thanks @ShingiPReaction. Interesting observation. When you say other media, are you referring to print and direct mail, that is more traditional sources? Any ideas why you're seeing that?