Social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter are gradually emerging as important
shopping tools as the majority of users now rely upon them to help make their purchasing decisions, a new survey has found.
The survey by
based research firm Gartner Inc discovered that most of the users take suggestions from their friends through social networking sites before buying any product.
The Gartner survey of nearly 4000 consumers across 10 key markets, also found that these social networks often include people, who play different roles while recommending products to people they are connected with.
Those people were classified into three major categories: 'Connectors', 'Mavens' and 'Salesmen'.
According to the report, the 'Connectors' are those who "perform a bridging function between disparate groups of people and enjoy introducing people to each other”.
The 'Mavens' are "knowledge exchangers or information brokers", who are experts in particular area and people go to them for advice.
But they are not people who wish to convince people to buy certain items,they are more interested in acquiring new knowledge, it said.
And the 'Salesmen', according to Gartner, are those, who have "extensive social connections" and the personality trait that persuade people around them to "act on information in
highly directed ways".
"Our survey results showed that one fifth of the consumer population is composed of Salesmen, Connectors and Mavens. These are three roles that are key influencers in the
purchasing activities of 74% of the population," said Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner.
"Salesmen and Connectors are the most effective social network influencers and the most important groups for targeted marketing based on social network analysis."
On the basis of its findings, Gartner is now advising companies to actively engage with these different people on social networking sites which have become a "critical, but underutilised, aspect of the marketing process".
Ingelbrecht said,"Companies attempting to use social networks should develop relationships with key customers over a period of time and progressively refine the social network profiles of those individuals.
"In this way, the most suitable individuals can be targeted with the right information, products and promotions in the most cost effective way.
"Retailers who run small shops have instinctively done this with their best customers for years with the intention that these 'VIP' customers will not only buy the new products but recommend them to their friends."