Traditional Media Sparks Online Information Gathering and Word of Mouth by Digital Influencers

Ipsos/MS&L Survey Uncovers Drivers of Digital Influence and Reveals How Information Is Shared Online

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NEW YORK – December 17, 2008 – Traditional media play a vital role in igniting the process that leads influencers to share information online and via word of mouth, according to a new Ipsos Public Affairs study developed by IM MS&L, the influencer marketing practice of MS&L. Among nearly 1,000 digital influencers in the areas of beauty, personal health or the environment, more than eight in ten say they often go online to find out more after reading something in a magazine or newspaper (84%) or hearing something on TV or on the radio (84%.) The research shows that both traditional and online media sources help shape public opinion in the complex world of online influence.

The study helped develop a tool called the “IM MS&L Sharability Index,” which ranks sources of online information based on how often material from those locations is shared by a category’s most powerful influencers. The index was introduced as a method for maximizing digital influence based on learnings from the research and was designed to help marketers make decisions on influencer strategies to create campaigns for maximum impact.

The index takes into account online influencers’ propensity to both gather and share information. It also considers information sources influencers use most often and the sources with maximum “sharability,” or those most likely to be shared. The index then ranks 15 types of online sources within three distinct categories of digital influencers: beauty, personal health, and environmental cause. Sources with the highest sharability generate the most digital word-of-mouth per contact.

Below are some of the key findings of the research:

Beauty influencers rely heavily on manufacturers’ websites for their point of view.

  • In a good sign for advertisers, company and product websites are more effective sources for driving word-of-mouth in the beauty category than in either personal health or environmental cause.
  • Online community Web sites rank the highest of 15 sources for sharability among digital beauty influencers, and portals and search engines have the lowest sharability score.
  • In the beauty category, consumer opinion may motivate more sharing than in other categories: Blogs, discussion boards and chat rooms are rated above average on the index.

Non-profit and academic web sites should not be neglected for green content.

  • Influencers in the environment space spend a great deal of time gathering information from non-profit, association and academic Web sites (42% do so at least once per week).
  • Digital influencers in the category of environmental cause embrace traditionally credible and objective sites when it comes to sharability.
  • The highest sharability scores go to Web sites of environment-related publications, magazines and TV networks, and non-profit/academic Web sites.
  • Banner ads and online community sites have the lowest sharability scores, meaning that environmental influencers share information from these sources much less frequently than they do information from all other sources, relative to how often they gather information from each of these sources.

Nutrition is a hot topic for health influencers

  • Majorities of personal health influencers frequently gather information about nutrition (54%) and nearly half frequently share this content with others.
  • The most “sharable” source among digital influencers in this category are national and local government Web sites, even though these sites are not as widely visited and used as other sites that provide health information.
  • These Web sites trigger a great deal of word-of-mouth on the part of the personal health influencers who access them, so the sites may provide the biggest bang for a marketer’s digital communications’ buck.
  • While influencers often use portals and search engines to gather health information, these are among the sources with the lowest “sharability” rankings.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos study conducted May 7-21, 2008. For the survey, a national sample of 939 Digital Influencers across three categories—beauty, personal health, and environment—were interviewed online. Survey participants were adults aged 18 and older selected from among members of Ipsos’ U.S. online panel based on their interest in one of the three aforementioned topics, how frequently they gather information online about that topic, and how often they pass along information gathered online about that topic to others.

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Nicolas Boyon
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Public Affairs
(646) 364-7583

About Ipsos

Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals that helps interpret, simulate, and anticipate the needs and responses of consumers, customers, and citizens around the world. Member companies assess market potential and interpret market trends to develop and test emergent or existing products or services, and build brands. They also test advertising and study audience responses to various media, and measure public opinion around the globe.

They help clients create long-term relationships with their customers, stakeholders or other constituencies. Ipsos member companies offer expertise in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research, as well as forecasting, modeling, and consulting and offers a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services, guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999. In 2007, Ipsos generated global revenues of €927.2 million ($1.27 billion U.S.).

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Traditional Media Sparks Online Information Gathering and Word of Mouth by Digital Influencers

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Nicolas Boyon
Senior Vice President, US
Head of Health Services Research

Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 212 293 6544