Facebook and Twitter icons influence online buying, says study

Facebook Twitter badgesOnline advertisers take heed: The mere presence of social media icons, such as Facebook and Twitter badges on websites, can subconsciously influence online spending — that according to a recent study conducted by the University of Miami School of Business.

Researchers tracked nearly 200 participants’ online shopping behaviors and determined how the presence of the ubiquitous Facebook “Like” or Twitter “Tweet” buttons influenced actual purchasing. What they found is intriguing: The existence of social media icons can either greatly persuade or greatly dissuade consumers from buying, depending on the specific product they’re considering. As Professor Claudia Townsend explains, the findings indicate that “social media icons on a web page where we shop appears to cause us to feel as if our purchases are being watched by our social networks, and we adjust our buying decisions accordingly.”

For instance, if a participant saw a Facebook “Like” button next to an item they might be embarrassed to be seen buying — a pair of Spanx, perhaps (the research specifically mentions these), there could be a 25 percent reduced chance of the consumer actually going ahead and making the purchase, compared to the same product on the same page, but without the social reference. Place a “Tweet” or “Like” button next to “sportswear or a desirable fragrance” and that same statistic reverses itself, with a 25 percent greater likelihood the product will be bought.

The researchers randomly assigned product pages to study participants — some products were of a distinctly private nature (acne medication for men, compression underwear for women), others included those items that you might not mind your friends knowing you bought. Equally random was whether or not the pages included social networking references.

What’s particularly striking is that the trend held even if participants had no recollection that there had even been social networking icons displayed, demonstrating the true subconscious power of those little badges. Researchers went on to claim that the symbols have “penetrated people’s unconscious processes and can influence decisions and behavior in ways that may bypass our awareness and ability to control.”

Online advertisers have long tried to increase the accuracy of online marketing by gleaning increasingly more personal information from Internet users; in turn, online advertising revenues were almost $8 billion in the last quarter of 2011. Google’s new privacy policy ostensibly serves this purpose by combining user data from all of Google’s wide-reaching web services. And President Obama’s recently announced “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” means to address consumer concerns over access to their browsing behavior by limiting what information advertisers can actually use. But what this study makes clear is that good old-fashioned peer-pressure may be just as important as targeted advertising in influencing consumer spending.

When it comes down to it, social networking for most users is a curated experience: We all try to show ourselves in the best possible light, and style our profiles according to our tastes, whatever they may be. As Nick Bergus found out when he unwittingly became the face of a 55-gallon drum of Passion Natural water-based lubricant via a Facebook “Sponsored Story,” this brave new world of social media advertising can have uniquely undesirable consequences. As this study points out, however, when most consumers are faced with the prospect of social networking embarrassment or prestige — even unconsciously — it can have a dramatic impact on how they shop online.


YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 

High-tech but low-key, these are the amazing materials inside your outdoor gear

We take a look at some of the materials that are used in the creation of our favorite outdoor gear, making our jackets, sleeping bags, tents, and other items warmer, drier, and more comfortable even in harsh weather conditions.

These 30 useful apps are absolutely essential for Mac lovers

There are literally hundreds of thousands of great software programs compatible with MacOS, but which should you download? Look no further than our list of the best Mac apps you can find.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Home Theater

What is YouTube TV? Here’s everything you need to know the streaming service

YouTube TV is becoming an increasingly major competitor to other streaming services. Not sure if the service might be right for you? Don’t worry, we’ve got a guide detailing everything you could want to know about the service.

Use one of these password managers to help protect yourself online

The internet can be a scary place, especially if you don't have a proper password manager. This guide will show you the best password managers you can get right now, including both premium and free options.

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.

Russia will ‘unplug’ from the internet as part of a cyber-defense test

Authorities across Russia are planning on unplugging the country from the global internet as part of a test of its cyber defenses. The disconnection will briefly keep all internet traffic inside the country.

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.

Gmail adds lots of new functionality to its right-click menu

Right-click on an email in Gmail and the list of actions is pretty limited. That's about to change, though, as Google has just announced it's expanding the list of options to make its email client that little bit more useful.

Tired of paying a monthly fee for Word? The best Microsoft Office alternatives

Looking for a competent word processor that isn't Microsoft Word? Thankfully, the best alternatives to Microsoft Office offer robust features, expansive compatibility, and an all-too-familiar aesthetic. Here are our favorites.

File Transfer Protocol explained: What FTP is and what it does

FTP stands for "File Transfer Protocol," and it's used to transfer files online. Most internet users don't need it, but web developers use it constantly. Here's what FTP is, how it works, and how you can get started using it.

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

Lose the key for your favorite software? These handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.