About the Author

Tom Webster is Vice President, Strategy for Edison Research - the company best known as the sole providers of all exit polling data for CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The AP and other major news providers. He is the principal author of The Social Habit. Find him on Twitter at @webby2001

Pinterest Users in America 2012 – NEW Data from The Social Habit

In the Fall 2012 edition of The Social Habit research series, we took an extended look at Pinterest to see just how the popular “pinning” service is being used by social media users in America. We looked at who was using Pinterest, what activites and behaviors they were engaged in, and what kinds of products they were pinning and why.

I’ve already written about Pinterest’s unique demographic skew–it’s the only major social network that is so heavily female-driven–but for the first time we are reporting that amongst American Women 18-44 who use social media, Pinterest is the third most widely-used social network (behind Facebook and Twitter.)

We have decided to make our new Pinterest data available in a stand-alone report called Pinterest Users in America 2012. This data, extracted from the most recent Social Habit research series, provides more than 30 all-new, data-rich charts of data about the popular service, including the following:

  • Demographics
  • Comparative usage to other social networks
  • Impact of Pinterest on purchase behavior
  • How Pinterest browsers buy products seen on Pinterest
  • What types of products are pinned
  • Differential pinning reasons for 12 categories of products, including Food, Fashion, Gadgets, Travel and more
This report also includes a methodology statement and selected implications of the data, and is available for immediate download for $99. Current Fall 2012 Social Habit subscribers will be sent this report for free. We hope you find enormous value in Pinterest Users in America as you plan your 2013 social strategy!

Price: $99.00

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Why Pinterest Matters

Why Pinterest Matters

In the fall, 2012, edition of The Social Habit, we inserted a whole raft of questions on Pinterest–not only to learn who uses the pinning service, but why and how they use it, and how that usage correlates with purchase behavior. We explored a number of platforms in The Social Habit, of course, but Pinterest stands alone for one very notable reason.

First of all, take note of the overall demographics of social media users in America (ages 12+):

Social Media Demographics by Edison

What is remarkable about this graph is that there is absolutely nothing remarkable about this graph. In other words, Americans who use social media essentially look like Americans, period. Social media usage is a mainstream behavior, and gone are the days when it was concentrated with any one demographic group.

Now look at the demographics of Pinterest:

Pinterest Demographics by Edison

Not only does this graph tell a very different story, it tells a unique story among all the major social platforms we explored in The Social Habit. Pinterest doesn’t just lean female, it leans a lot female (Google+, by comparison, is a stag party.)

For this reason alone, Pinterest is worth a more considered study–which is why we have an entire section in the paid Social Habit report on what kinds of products women (and men) pin on Pinterest, why they pin them, and when, if ever, they buy them. Want to know more? Head over to our products and pricing page and learn about The Social Habit, Fall 2012 Edition.

The Primacy Myth Of Search

The Primacy Myth Of Search

There are certain bits of received wisdom about the role of search in the purchase process. If I were to ask you, for instance, what percentage of purchases “started” with a search, what would you guess? Two-thirds? More?

There is no doubt that search plays an important role in purchase behavior, and there are a crapton of clickstream-based studies which demonstrate that search is involved in the majority of online purchases. It is, however, a far different thing to say “is involved in” than it is to say “instigates.” Consider this: we meet at a conference somewhere, and you ask me where I got my snazzy blazer. I tell you it’s a Kroon, and that I got it at Nordstrom. Now, because we are talking in real life, I don’t have a crap.ly affiliate link to give you–I simply show you the label.

So, you go back home and Google/Bing/Lycos/Altavista “Kroon Nordstrom.” Your clickstream consumer journey started with search, but your actual consumer journey did not. In fact, in this all-too-common scenario, search was merely a commodified utility; a handy link shortener to quickly access the page you already knew you wanted.

Now, this is not to say that search is unimportant; nor is it to belittle the importance of SEO. In fact, had I told you that my blazer was a Kroon, but NOT that I bought it at Nordstrom, it would have been Nordstrom’s SEO prowess that would have led you to buy the blazer from them, and not from another retailer. But you were still going to buy a Kroon, and search had nothing to do with that decision.

So, I am not challenging the importance of search, merely the primacy of search. What I suspect is this: the more purchase risk, the lower the importance of search (and, of course, the converse would necessarily be true.) If I need a VGA dongle for my MacBook, search might be the beginning and end of my consumer journey. But if I want a snappy blazer to go with jeans, a gas range, or a Ph.D., search may be part of the process, but it might serve as little more than a helpful road sign for a destination I already had in mind.

In our most recent Social Habit report, we actually collected some data on the consumer journey and the roles of search, social and word of mouth in that process. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the data we are sitting on:


When we asked a representative national sample of 3,000 American social media users, ages 12+, what they turned to first to learn about a product or brand, “Search” had a plurality but nowhere near the majority of responses. The global take-away from this graph? Seven in ten social media users in America start their consumer journey somewhere other than search. Search may play a role, deeper into the funnel, but social media users are more likely to begin with word of mouth (either online or offline).

Other aspects of these data worth noting: first, don’t abandon those company websites yet–after search, those are the most common starting point–and also, note the 7% of social media users who indicated that their consumer journeys start with social media. Don’t be fooled into thinking that’s a “small” number–it isn’t–and don’t forget: the question refers to what source social media users turn to first. Other data we have in the latest Social Habit report indicates that social does indeed play an important part of the consumer journey–but that role may not be at the top of the funnel.

That fact alone should dramatically inform your marketing strategy and significantly alter your tactics, especially if your brand involves a high-risk purchase, and you are using social media to generate awareness.

What do you make of this graph? And what are your thoughts about the role of search in purchase behavior?

Note – “The Primacy Myth of Search” originally appeared on Brandsavant.com

Announcing The Social Habit Fall 2012 Online Event

For all of you who have ordered the next edition of The Social Habit–thank you. The data is back from the field and Team Edison has polished it to a shine. We’ll be spending the next few weeks pulling out the important insights and findings for the final report, and preparing for our inaugural online event, which we can now announce will be on Thursday, October 11th.

We’ll have more details on the time and how to logon for Social Habit subscribers very soon. We’ll also be premiering a few tidbits in this space prior to October 11th to give you all a sneak peek into the value of this incredible dataset. Mark, Jay, Jason and I will all have a few key insights to share on this blog leading up to our online event, and we’ll also give some early details of some of the other reports we’ll be announcing soon in the Social Habit series.

And if you haven’t yet purchased the Social Habit, now’s a great time to be sure you are on the list for next month. Do eeet!

Early Bird Pricing For The Social Habit Ending Soon

The raw data for the next edition of The Social Habit research series is slated to hit my desk on Friday, September 7th, and (coincidentally enough) that will also be the final day that you can purchase The Social Habit report for our early rate of $297. After that, the price for the basic report–which includes a complete set of conclusions, recommendations, and access to an online event with me, Jay Baer, Jason Falls and Mark Schaefer with a live Q&A–increases permanently to $347.

This quarter, The Social Habit is tackling social media’s impact upon consumer behavior, purchase decisions, customer service and more, including:

  • How Facebook, Twitter and other social networks impact buying decisions
  • Customer Service expectations and preferred channels in social media
  • How social media affects other media consumption
  • What people pin on Pinterest–and why
  • What kinds of content people expect from brands and companies
  • Social media behaviors and expectations associated with food brands, restaurants, financial services companies and more

You can learn more on our Social Habit products and pricing page. And if you work for a brand, company or agency, you might also consider the Social Habit Premium Consulting Edition, which entitles you to access all the raw data and schedule your own one hour consulting call or private webinar to go through the data relevant to your business, and pick our brains in the process.

We are extremely excited to be bringing quality research to the social space–I hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Marketing Metrics And Head Injuries

NewImageThe two aren’t as unrelated as they might seem. Consider the following scenario: You run an e-commerce site that sells real or virtual products with some kind of online shopping cart system. You make a tweak to your sales process–maybe add a step, or make your offer page longer–and observe that your percentage of “abandoned carts” (when people add your product to their cart and then, after seemingly reconsidering, exit your site without making a purchase) increases considerably.

Did the changes you made to your sales process have a negative effect?

Well, there are three answers to this. The obvious answer is “yes.” The obvious answer for contrarians who always suspect trick questions is “no.”

The answer that would get you hired at Edison is…you don’t know (yet.)

So why wouldn’t an increase in abandoned shopping carts automatically be bad? The short answer is that abandoned shopping carts, in a vacuum, is the wrong metric to track.

To explain, here’s a little nugget of statistical lore from World War I. In the early days of the war, soldiers were sent out with cloth hats–about as bullet-proof as my Mets hat. By 1915, the mounting, horrific number of deaths caused by head wounds prompted the armies of the Great War to begin issuing metal helmets to their soldiers. The Brodie Helmet (pictured), developed in 1915, represented a real breakthrough in personnel armor, as each helmet could be stamped from a single piece of steel, making these helmets efficient to mass produce.

As more and more soldiers became equipped with helmets, a curious statistic was observed: the number of head injuries that army hospitals had to treat skyrocketed. That’s right–head injuries increased dramatically as a result of the introduction of helmets.

The answer to this conundrum, of course, is that head injuries increased because more soldiers were surviving head shots. Tracking head injuries, in this case, is the wrong metric–or, at least, it doesn’t tell the story in a vacuum. The right metric to track comes down to outcomes–are fewer soldiers dying of head shots?

So, back to shopping carts. Abandoned shopping carts (and other peripheral stats) may or may not tell the story of the data you have. For example, if cart abandonment goes up, but so do sales, then the answer might be that your changes have attracted more “non-core” consumers–more casual shoppers–but the bottom line is that you have attracted more shoppers. You cannot gauge a metric like abandoned carts negatively or positively unless you consider your outcomes.

Now let’s be careful out there.

Topics Announced For The Next Edition Of The Social Habit

Topics Announced For The Next Edition Of The Social Habit

Team Edison has been busily crafting the questionnaire for the next version of The Social Habit, which goes into the field next week. Our goal with this iteration is to give companies, brands and products more granular information about what social media users expect to see in terms of content, how (and when) they’d like to consume that content, and how brands’ efforts in social are tied to purchase decisions.

In addition, for this upcoming edition of The Social Habit, we’ll be covering the following:

  • A look at how social media usage augments and in some cases replaces usage of other media
  • The importance of deals/discounts compared to other kinds of content from products and companies
  • An expanded look at Pinterest by product category–what types of goods and services get pinned, by whom, and what are the differential reasons for pinning those categories?
  • How does Pinterest impact purchase behavior–and what is the purchase horizon for various categories of products?
  • How is mobile social usage different from desktop usage, and how does that impact brands?
  • What are consumer expectations regarding customer service on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks?
  • Granular looks at the varying expectations of consumers for social media interactions with Restaurants, Financial Services companies, Food brands and other verticals.
  • And much more!

Access to this new, highly actionable version of The Social Habit starts soon–and is available now for an early bird price of just $297. More specifically tailored insights and recommendations for your brand are also available, starting at well under $1000. Report pricing will go up once the research is complete, so to learn more about our various packages and prices, check out our products page now, and as always, contact us if you have any questions!




Twitter Shows You Why You Need The Social Habit

Twitter Shows You Why You Need The Social Habit

Twitter recently unveiled a fun project, the Twitter Political Index, which purports to show how the fortunes of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney wax and wane in the land of 140 characters. Now, I happen to love these things, and I think they show us something. I’m not sure what that something is, but there is a there there, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein.

There are three things I can tell you about the graph above, however. First: as is the case every year since Taft, the one with the blue tie will win. Second, there is no way that actual opinion exhibits the kind of day-to-day variance that the graph at the bottom of this Twitter metric does. And finally, I can confidently predict that the final margin will not be a country mile within 18 points. Is it possible that Twitter can predict the winner? Sure. But I can tell you this–if we were ever off even in a correct prediction by double digits, it would be a dark day at Edison HQ.

So, these things are fun, and I’ll certainly enjoy watching it every day. But, if you are a marketer in charge of monitoring your fortunes on the social web, what does the 18-point gap between Obama and Romney tell you about how your brand is doing on Twitter? At the very least, it tells you that the raw, unfiltered information you get from your social media monitoring platform of choice needs a little calibrating.

In the case of the Political Index, for example, you might want to know the political makeup of Twitter users, their location, and their likelihood to vote (only one of which is ascertainable through clickstream data). If you are a brand, and you get a “poor report card” on Twitter, it might help you to know what percentage of Twitter users are current or potential customers of your brand (or product category), or better yet–what percentage of your customers actively use Twitter. Knowing one or two crucial details like these is the key to calibrating your social data and weighting their importance up or down accordingly. It’s the difference between recognizing whether you have a brand crisis, or a Motrin Moms kerfuffle. And it’s the key to unlocking the contextual relevance of the sea of unstructured data the social web spits back at us every day.

Answering those one or two key questions for brands–like, what platforms do my customers use, and why?–was the prime motivation for starting The Social Habit. Those of you who have seen me speak know that I am fond of talking about doing the work–and doing your own work–to put social data into context. Doing that work involves asking your customers how the social web fits into their lives. With The Social Habit, we are putting the answers to those questions into nearly everyone’s hands, by making custom questions in our Social Habit research series available for just $1997–many thousands less than a complete custom research survey, and you’ll also gain consulting access to some of the sharpest minds in social media.

We think it’s a winner, and we hope you will agree. Want to know more about the full suite of Social Habit products and services, starting at just $297? Click here to learn more about The Social Habit, or contact us today!

The Social Habit – Answering Your Questions (And Announcing Our Winners!)

We were pleasantly surprised by both the quality and quantity of questions we received in our reader submission contest–so much so, that we decided to pick three winners instead of one. One thing that is very clear from the types of questions you sent us: we are all ready to start valuing social a little more smartly. So, without a doubt, the value of social media will be a clear focus for the first iteration of this series.

All three of the winning questions are going to be profiled and examined in more detail by Jay, Jason and Mark later this week–but for today, without further ado, here are the winning submissions:

When people research products and services they want to buy, where do they look? Facebook, Twitter (or other similar properties), blogs, user forums, reviews, [and/or] company websites? – Steve Dodd

For me, it always comes down to figuring out how to connect social media usage or activity to revenue. I guess I would ask “have you ever bought a product or service due to a social media interaction” … “have you ever recommended a product or service to others via social media”, or some variant of that. – Rhonda Hurwitz

I’d like to know which motivations are the driving force for various types of social media users, and what roles social media plays for them. Also what other activities/tools “compete” with social to fulfill those roles for each group? – Susan Baier

Great questions, all–and for posing them, our winners will not only receive a copy of our next Social Habit report for free, they’ll also get their questions answered. Now that’s a deal! Thank you, Steve, Rhonda and Susan, for your thoughtful queries–and a big thanks to everyone who contributed. You’ve helped us set a direction with our opening study, and I think you’ll like the results.

Why “The Social Habit?”

Why “The Social Habit?”

The Social Habit is more than just a research series, it’s a passion of mine. I’ve been a professional market researcher for 20 years, and understanding the consumer behavior shifts caused by disruptive technologies has been my sole practice area for well over a decade. My company, Edison Research, is a custom market research agency that specializes in sound methods and actionable insights, and we employ some of the most brilliant minds in research. I am enormously proud to work for the company that serves as the sole provider of exit polling data to all the major news networks, and to have provided custom research for organizations and companies like Google, Pandora and The Associated Press.

In short, we take our data pretty seriously.

Over the past seven years, as I’ve become more interested in social media, I’ve been fortunate to work for a company in Edison that recognized the power of  social early on, and put its money behind doing some serious inquiries into social media usage in America. Since then, we’ve produced a number of publicly-available research studies, including the latest free version of The Social Habit 2012 (available on our Download page), The Social Habit 2011, The Social Habit 2010, Twitter Usage In America, and The New Media Consumer Revealed, as well as recent studies on mobile social usage and the “daily deals” space.

As I’ve presented this data across the country over the past few years, I’ve been gratified by the response we’ve received. More than anything, I’ve been overwhelmed with requests to provide more specific data about individual verticals or even brands, and other data points that would enable an individual company to use our national data to calibrate their efforts. We began to bake an idea at Edison to introduce a regular, syndicated research series that we could sell at a low price, as well as provide companies the opportunity to buy a question for their own use at a price point far lower than fielding their own custom survey.

In effect, just adding one question to a survey like The Social Habit (for instance, “Do you purchase Nike products,” or “how often do you eat in quick service restaurants”) and then providing all of the rest of the Social Habit data (Twitter usage, Google+ usage, brand-following behavior, etc.) cut by that specific brand question would unlock the means to calibrate a company’s social media clickstream data with survey data to truly allocate their efforts accordingly.

Idea in hand, we began to devise a plan to introduce it into the wild. The first thing I readily admitted was this: I’m a researcher, not a social media expert. Yes, I have blog at BrandSavant where I talk about social media and research, but if we were going to make this a credible effort in the space we needed more expertise on our side.

With that in mind, I turned to three people I know, love and trust–people I break bread with–to join Edison as business partners in this venture. Jay Baer, Jason Falls and Mark Schaefer are not only three of the smartest people in social I know, they are also friends that I trust, a fact upon which I place a very high premium. We may add more partners in the future. We will definitely add advisors and friends to this process to help us make the right inquiries. But one thing all four of us will always do is this: stand for quality. This research will be processed and analyzed by me and my colleagues at Edison, some of whom have forgotten more about statistical methods than I ever knew (and I know a bit.) It’s their precision and zero-tolerance for substandard work that gives me the confidence to step on stages presenting our research around the world, and I expect that to be the case for The Social Habit.

So that’s a little bit on the gestation of this idea. We think the market is ready to bring some rigor to consumer research around social media usage, and we want to put our research into the hands of more people.  We need your help. I hope you’ll subscribe, submit a question (see below) and let us know what data, research, facts or findings would most move the lever for your business. In return, we’ll give you reliable decision support you can trust.

Thanks for playing along.