Ask most advertisers and they’ll tell you they are really trying to reach people around 25-35 years old. Why? Well, they are the people with most disposable income and most likely to spend money. True enough, it does depend on the product you are selling – few young people are likely to buy a walk-in bath, for instance – but on average, advertisers prefer younger audiences.

Most people in that age group (Generation Y) use social networking sites and blogs. Indeed, according to one study some 85% of people born after 1979 use social networking sites and six out of ten use blogs. And that’s important because additional research shows that three-quarters of people who use social networking sites base their purchasing decisions on what they read from other people.

Social networking users appear to make up their mind as to whether or not to buy something based on what other people say in blogs and places like Facebook and MySpace. In other words, if you are an advertiser trying to reach young people you could be wasting your money; you are more likely to succeed if people are saying good things about your products and services on Facebook.

As I said last week, social networkers expect your business to be involved in social networking sites. Now it appears that these younger people also expect social networks to inform them as to whether or not your products and services are worthwhile.

So what does this all mean for online businesses and Internet marketers? It suggests that if your business does not have a social networking strategy you are unlikely to be able to sell as much as you would like – especially in these harsh economic times. Forget advertising and get engaged in social networking is the clear message of these studies.

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