Earlier this year, comScore, an online and digital tracking firm, released a report showing nearly everyone in the US who is online -- a whopping 98% -- uses social media. That usage equates to US females spending an average 7.9 hours a month on social media and US males spending six hours.

 

 

The report, "It's a Social World: Top 10 Need-to-Knows About Social Networking and Where It's Headed," included global data, too, according to Folio: magazine:

 

  • Facebook reaches 55% of the world's audience, with its 800 million users accounting for one of every seven minutes spent online overall
  • Twitter reaches one in 10 people online worldwide, a 59% increase year over year
  • LinkedIn, used by professionals, is now the fourth largest social network worldwide
  • Tumblr, while fairly new, registered 172% growth last year and is now the 12th largest social network
  • Google+, also new, already has 65 million users or 5% of the global social networking audience

 

 

While many of these millions of people worldwide are posting trivial comments about celebrities or what they ate for breakfast, no doubt some are also your customers (or potential customers) who might be posting comments -- positive and negative -- about your brand or products. And people with similar interests look to such comments and posts when deciding what to buy. A survey by Opinion Research showed 61% of respondents check reviews, blogs and other forms of customer feedback online before buying a new product or service, according to blogger Kim Hart on WashingtonPost.com (also picked up by Martin Lindstrom in an article on FastCompany.com).

 

 

Hart also cited a PowerReviews study from 2008 -- ancient by Internet standards -- showing "nearly half of US consumers who shopped online four or more times per year and spent at least US$500 said they needed four to seven customer reviews before making a purchase decision." Lindstrom added that while many people are aware that about 25% of customer reviews are fakes written by the companies making the products being reviewed (or their friends and families), shoppers tend to overlook that fact and follow the sentiment in the reviews anyway.

 

 

Lindstrom's article is an interesting look at the psychology behind this behavior of looking to other consumers for their opinions on products or services we're considering. But regardless of why people do it, it happens, and that includes reviews and other consumer opinions about petfood in general as well as specific brands and products. Do you know who is saying what about your petfood lines?

 

 

On Wednesday, April 4, at Petfood Forum 2012, social media experts from Watt Publishing (parent company of Petfood Industry and Petfood Forum) will present research on how petfood brands are being highlighted and commented on in social networks, especially Twitter. They'll also share best practices for how to follow what's being said about your products.

 

 

In the meantime, or if you can't make it to Petfood Forum (though if you register by February 1, you'll save up to 15%), you can get a handle on what's out there simply by signing up for a Google alert with your company, brand and product names as search terms; you can receive those daily or weekly in your email inbox. Another tip is to assign someone (or take the time to do it yourself) to spend an hour or two a week searching for your company, brand and product names in Twitter. (It's much more difficult, if not impossible, to do on Facebook, unfortunately.)

 

 

An industry colleague passed along a blog post by Marsha Collier on how to monitor social media in just five minutes a day, using free online tools and sites. Having tried some of this monitoring myself, I caution that five minutes a day is probably very optimistic, and setting up all these tools is fairly time-consuming and complicated. But you really should start somewhere to find out who's saying what about your products.