We may not like to admit it, but social media and the digital realm have diffused into all aspects of our lives. They serve and satisfy a variety of needs by connecting us with others, giving us our daily news and gossip and allowing us to make purchases at the touch of a button, among many others. These digital platforms have made such an impact in even the simplest day-to-day activities and companies who do not acknowledge this will surely miss out.
A 2013 study conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded what we all know: that consumer spend is influenced by recommendations, conversations and product introductions facilitated via social media. Furthermore, this study found that “nearly one-third of shoppers said that social media either introduced them to a brand/product they were previously unfamiliar with, or helped change their existing opinion of a brand during their buying decision process”. The study mentions that today’s consumer has many different path options for making purchases, but that social media plays a big role every step of the way, with 22 percent stating that social media was important in their final purchase decision.
In my personal purchase decisions, digital platforms play a crucial role. I am often introduced to new products online (through Facebook, Twitter) and even if I find out about a new product outside of the digital world, chances are that I will do some form of product research online. I also use the digital sphere as a primary method of comparing product specifications and prices because it is the simplest way for me to do so—a few clicks of the mouse and a quick Google search will get me all I need to know about a product. I often make online purchases (thanks to Amazon Prime) instead of going to the store because of cheaper prices, accessibility, and sometimes pure laziness on my part.
The ease of the internet, the abundance of information found on it, and its increasing prevalence in our everyday lives means that I will continue using it as a method of product research and an influencer in my product purchase decisions. As a society we are becoming busier, meaning that we want to save time wherever possible. The digital world, although sometimes taking up too much of our time, also allows us to save our precious time by giving us information almost immediately; for this reason, I believe that digital will only become more important in purchase decisions and will phase out some of the “traditional” purchase methods.
Now exactly where are the people who are on social media? I personally use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat, which sounds like a lot when I list them, however my level of involvement varies. I admit that I check each of these several times daily (with the exception of Linkedin), however the amount of times I actually post on these platforms is limited to once, maybe twice, a week. After doing a quick, informal interview of several friends, I’ve found that most are on the same platforms as I, while adding in Pinterest and other blog-type sites. But, what about the future of these sites? Will my friends and I be using the same sites a year from now? Here is what I think about a few of them:
- Facebook: It’s clear the popularity of Facebook has diminished a bit with the introduction of Twitter and Instagram and, not to mention, the presence of our parents and grandparents on the popular site. It may be the biggest social media platform now, but I think its popularity will be declining soon. Most people I talk to barely use their Facebook and I mostly use it for keeping in touch with my quite extensive list of family members. Furthermore, I don’t see that it is popular among a younger crowd—this is supported by a Forbes article that found Facebook usage among teens had dropped 56% in the third quarter of 2013.
- Instagram: It’s still gaining in popularity and will certainly be around in the coming years. According to the same Forbes article, Instagram saw an 85% increase in teen usage in 2013, so I assume the teens who left Facebook are now on Instagram—so long as their parents stay off the photo-sharing app.
- Twitter: It will most likely be around a year, two years, and several years from now. However, like Facebook, I think it will lose some popularity as other sites will be introduced.
- Google+: I rarely hear anything about the site and I have no interest in finding out about it. I also do not know of any friends who use the site so what’s the point in going on it? Chances are it will never take off quite like some other sites.
- Foursquare: Another site I know little about, but from what I can tell, I’m pretty sure that other social media sites and apps can offer similar features. I don’t see this being very popular within the next few years.
Staying on top of the latest trends is very difficult in a society that is constantly looking for the next best thing. Many social media sites and apps become outdated when a newer, better one is introduced. Even those who make a living out of studying people and trends can never predict what will happen, but there is one we can almost be certain of: the presence of social media in our daily lives will continue to increase.