A recent Harris Poll was released showing how strongly adults are influenced by social media when it comes to brands and product reviews. The study was conducted in April 2010 and asked 2,131 adults in the US to weigh in on a series of questions regarding social media consumer influence. Here are some of the interesting findings:

34% of adults who use social media, use it as an outlet to endorse or oppose brands. The polling found that 26% of those individuals are using the medium to express dissatisfaction while 23% are sharing their positive brand experiences. Either way, 38% of ALL adults who share their opinions in cyberspace are aiming to influence others.

So are people ultimately influenced by these rants and raves? They certainly are. The polling found that the number one influencer (71%) was “Reviews from family members or friends”. Coming in at a distant second was “Reviews in newspapers or magazines” (46%) and “Reviews from friends or people I follow on social networking sites” (45%).

Young adults were more likely than older adults to say their opinions encountered on social media sites were influential. Further, 50% of 18-34-year-olds versus 37% of adults 55 or older said social media reviews sway their interaction with companies, brands, and products.

There is good reason why marketers are employing social media policies. If done right, it can be a great channel to get a positive conversation about a brand spreading like a wildfire. In contrast, brands can be more vulnerable as well because real-life messages and experiences are being cast out by these individuals. People are generally more accepting of this information because they know it’s not just another marketing message.

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