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Search Engines Beat Out Social Media for Local Shoppers [Study]

Recently, businesses have dedicated a lot of effort to expanding their social media presence. The belief has been that social media is a natural destination for people who are looking for information on local businesses. However, a new study shows that people who get online to look for information on local bars, restaurants and other businesses don’t usually seek that information through social media sites.

The study, by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, discovered that people do turn to the Internet for information about local businesses. In fact, they rely on the Internet for that information more than they rely on anything else, including the second and third most popular sources of information, newspapers and recommendations from friends and relatives. However, the study found that few respondents turned to social media sites.

More than fifty percent of the respondents who reported looking for information about local gathering spots used the Internet as a source of information. Of these respondents, over a third reported using search engines such as Google to find information, and about one in six said they search on specialty sites. Only three percent of the respondents reported using social media like Facebook or Twitter to gather information.

Furthermore, even fewer respondents use social media to search for information about businesses other than restaurants, bars and clubs. Only one percent said they use social media in their search for information about other businesses.

These results will come as a disappointment to local businesses that have recently begun to venture into marketing campaigns centered on social media sites. However, many small businesses have been hesitant to make the leap into social network marketing. Another recent study revealed that, although half of the small businesses polled said they would go out of business without word-of-mouth marketing, only 12 percent believed that social media marketing was crucial to their success.

The study by the Pew Institute indicated that newspapers, in both their online and newsprint incarnations, are still a close second to Internet searches for gathering information about local restaurateurs and retailers, a fact that many will find surprising. Thirty-one percent of information seekers used newspapers as their source. Twenty-three percent still rely upon recommendations from people in their social circle.

Of the respondents, people with college educations who earn at least $75,000 a year made up the bulk of those who look for information about local businesses. The subset of respondents who reported seeking such information were much more likely than the general pool of respondents to be young, city-dwelling women.

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