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Social Networks Provide Richest Source of Opinions From Members Willing to Share, LinkedIn Study Reveals

November 5, 2008

The vast and varied online social networks provide market researchers with an efficient and effective new medium to obtain opinions from today’s decision makers, most of whom are more than wiling to share their views. That’s what a study announced today by Anderson Analytics and SPSS Inc. (Nasdaq: SPSS) found after surveying members on behalf of the highly popular professional networking site LinkedIn.

The study reveals that 86 percent of LinkedIn members who responded to the survey were not part of other online survey panels, and a majority of the respondents surveyed (66 percent) had decision-making power or influence over purchase decisions. These same members were also more active on LinkedIn and had the most “connections.” This shows that market researchers have the potential to efficiently reach the richest source of qualified opinions, and also reach the “influencers” of the group.

Using SPSS Predictive Analytics data and text mining software, Anderson Analytics was also able to identify four distinct categories of networkers from the 30 million users within LinkedIn. These segments – “Savvy Networkers,”"Senior Executives,”"Late Adopters,” and “Exploring Options” – illustrate how market researchers can identify disparate groups and then best communicate to these individuals, based on their participation levels on the networking site.

The popularity and increasing importance of Web 2.0 and Social Networking Services (SNS) have marketers scrambling to understand how to take advantage of this unlimited raw intelligence and get direct access to the subscribers.

SNS, like LinkedIn, are changing how firms understand – and respond – to customers’ needs, wants and behaviors. These sites represent a tremendous opportunity for marketers to communicate with hard-to-reach segments through targeted advertising. And, the connected nature of SNS also makes word-of-mouth marketing especially attractive.

Tom H. C. Anderson, managing partner at Anderson Analytics, said, “Our findings prove that SNS provide market researchers with a more focused population of respondents who are willing to participate in surveys and offer honest feedback on their preferences, motivations, and intentions. The use of SNS is also more economical, easier and an efficient way to reach millions of consumers who could never be found in focus groups or research panels.”

The use of SPSS Predictive Analytics data and text mining software enables market researchers to explore “unstructured” information within SNS to pull key concepts and extract sentiments, such as emotional responses, preferences and opinions, and draw more reliable conclusions of customers’ behaviors and attitudes by particular segments.

Olivier Jouve, vice president of corporate development at SPSS, said, “SPSS Predictive Analytics software gives market researchers the ability to easily capture feedback, analyze ‘Voice of the Customer’ data, segment different groupings of individuals, and then deploy those results to optimize marketing efforts that reduce customer churn, improve satisfaction, or increase revenues.”

The four categories of networkers were distinguished by analyzing behavioral and attitudinal data such as number of connections, logins, usage style, and networking interests. They are defined as:

— “Savvy Networkers” (9 million) are likely to have started using social networking earlier than others, are more tech savvy, and more likely to be active on other SNS sites like Facebook. Savvy Networkers have the most connections (61 on average) and are more likely to use LinkedIn for almost every purpose other than job searching. Savvy Networkers have the second highest personal income ($93,500) and usually have “Consultant” in their job description.

— “Senior Executives” (8.4 million) are somewhat less tech savvy and are using LinkedIn to connect to their existing corporate networks. They have power jobs which they are quite content with, and are likely to have been invited by a colleague, then realized how many key contacts were on the site and started building connections (32 on average). Senior Executives have the highest average personal income ($104,000) and have titles such as Owner, Partner, Executive or Associate.

— “Late Adopters” (6.6 million) are likely to have received numerous requests from friends and co-workers before deciding to join. They are somewhat less tech savvy and are careful in how they use LinkedIn, tending to connect only to close friends and colleagues and have the fewest number of connections (23 on average). Late Adopters have the lowest average personal income ($88,000) and have titles such as Teacher, Medical Professional, Lawyer, or the word “Account” or “Assistant” in their job description.

— “Exploring Options” (6.1 million) may be working, but are open and looking for other job options often on Careerbuilder.com, perhaps in part because they have the lowest personal income ($87,500). They are fairly tech savvy, and use SNS for both corporate and personal interests.

Study Methodology

The study was conducted by data and text mining 65,873 LinkedIn records (yielding overall statistics with an accuracy of +/-0.39 percent). Data visualization tools were used to understand how 1,000 U.S. and 1,000 international “seed” records were connected to their 51,873 first-level connections. Additionally, 793 LinkedIn members responded to a 10-minute survey (the survey sample provided statistics with a +/-3.48 percent confidence interval). The analysis was conducted by Anderson Analytics using SPSS Predictive Analytics data mining, text mining, and data collection survey software.

About Anderson Analytics

More than market research, Anderson Analytics is the first next generation marketing consultancy to combine new technologies, such as data and text mining, with traditional market research. Anderson Analytics helps clients gain The Information Advantage by combining the efficiencies and business experience found in large research firms with the rigorous methodological understanding from academia and the creativity found only in smaller firms. For more information, please visit http://www.andersonanalytics.com.

About SPSS Inc.

SPSS Inc. (Nasdaq: SPSS) is a leading global provider of Predictive Analytics software and solutions. The company’s Predictive Analytics technology improves business processes by giving organizations forward visibility for decisions made every day. By incorporating Predictive Analytics into their daily operations, organizations become Predictive Enterprises — able to direct and automate decisions to meet business goals and achieve a measurable competitive advantage. More than 250,000 public sector, academic and commercial customers rely on SPSS technology to help increase revenue, reduce costs and detect and prevent fraud. Founded in 1968, SPSS is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit www.spss.com.




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