Power Web Users Show Media Usage Nuances

Some people don’t just use the Web, they really use the Web. Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann has released a study of Web power users, indicating they not only go online to communicate, research products and access information, the younger among them do so differently from their older counterparts.

As a result of blogging, consumer-generated media (CGM) and other social Web communication, “a small amount of people are having a huge amount of influence over a large amount of people,” said Susan Nathan, Universal McCann SVP and director of media knowledge. In surveying frequent Internet users, the agency aimed to answer the question, “What can we as marketers do to make sure we talk to them the right way?”

“The New ‘Digital Divide’ How the New Generation of Digital Consumers Are Transforming Mass Communication” report surveyed Web users ages 16-49 who accessed the Internet a minimum of 11 times in seven days. It found that more than 80 percent of participants find value in blog site sponsorships, buttons and Google sponsored links.

Specifically, of the ad formats power users found acceptable or of value, 86 percent named site sponsorships as most valuable, 83 percent said buttons, 82 percent chose Google sponsored links, 71 percent said RSS feed ads, 67 percent named banners, 48 percent said e-mail ads and 12 percent chose pop-ups.

In terms of blog ad recall, banners won out. Sixty-four percent of users surveyed recalled seeing brands advertised through banner ads on blogs, 51 percent said Google sponsored links, 50 percent named pop-ups, 45 percent chose site sponsorships and buttons, 33 percent said e-mail ads and 19 percent named RSS feed ads.

Placing ads in blogs may elicit a more positive response than employing more covert methods, the report suggests. It notes that 38 percent of heavy Web users said they are bothered when a company tries to “seed” a blog to sell their products of services. Although these users are not always turned off by advertising, explained Nathan, “Overt corporate interaction was not acceptable.”

Recommendations from trusted sources about products and brands are regarded highly compared to other more standard ads. Forty percent of survey participants named recommendations from friends, family and colleagues as the number one trusted source of information on products and brands they buy. Thirty-one percent said e-mails from friends, 16 percent news sites, 13 percent company Web sites and 10 percent named TV ads.

Indeed, TV spots beat out blogs, which 7 percent picked as their top trusted source about products and brands they buy. Seven percent named either radio or outdoor ads as the most trustworthy source.

The top most trustworthy sources were also considered the top five most valuable: recommendations from friends, family and colleagues; e-mails from friends; price comparison Web sites; recommendations from professionals; and news sites. Nathan singled out online comparison shopping as a source that’s unique to the Web. “This is stuff that you can’t do using traditional media to the extent that you can on the Internet,” she stressed. In fact, 84 percent of participants researched a future purchase on the Web, and 84 percent have made an online purchase.

These power users, who represent 31 percent of the U.S. population according to the study, differ from other consumer groups; however, they have distinctions from one another as well. The study shows that 68 percent of 16-34 year-olds use an instant messaging service, making them 25 percent more likely than 35-49 year-olds to do so. Seventy-one percent of the younger crowd manages or writes a blog, making them three times more likely to do so than their older cohorts. Forty percent of 16-34 year-olds, or about twice as many as 35-49 year-olds, belong to a social networking site. One third of the younger users have participated in peer-to-peer file sharing, compared to 12 percent of 35-49 year-olds.

“There are definitely a lot of blips that the younger people are more into and more aware of,” Nathan said. “These things are changing rapidly everyday and [marketers] need to understand how this new generation is transforming mass communications.”

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