By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Just under one quarter of consumers have purchased a product after reading about it on a social media network, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, according to research published today by RightNow, a specialist customer experience company.

Brett Waters, RightNow's Asia Pacific VP, reported that 24 per cent of respondents said they had purchased something based on the recommendation of a friend, seeing a video furnished by the supplier or after interacting directly with the brand over Twitter, amongst other social media.

Of this 24 per cent, 33 per cent made their purchase in a bricks and mortar store, meaning that one-third of social media researchers still want to have the face-to-face experience of buying in store.

For the proactive retailers and suppliers; those with active and engaging social media platforms, there exists strong influencing possibilities. This is due to RightNow revealing that 59 per cent of consumers believe companies listen to social media feedback and almost as many (51 per cent) welcome a response to any negative feedback they may have made. Only 25 per cent would consider such contact to be intrusive.

The message from this is twofold: suppliers and retailers should be monitoring social media, with staff empowered to contact dissatisfied customers directly to respond and, hopefully, resolve their issues.

Secondly, companies need to be active across social media, constantly reinforcing their brand messages.

For those suppliers and retailers that have eschewed or ignored social media, RightNow provided some sobering statistics as to the opportunity being lost to talk directly to consumers: all up 73 per cent of Australians aged 18 to 64 are using social media, while amongst the key younger demographics, 92 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds and 86 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds are actively engaging with brands on social media.