An elite group of people defined as online 'influentials' (the social and political thought leaders in the street) rely on the internet for their information above all other media channels, according to a study by RoperASW for The Washington Post.
RoperASW and WashingtonPost.com's latest study identified online influentials and their attitudes toward media usage. According to Roper's own research, this powerful group forms the 10% of the USA's population that shapes the attitudes and even behaviour of the other 90%.
The study of 3,206 visitors to the WashingtonPost.com web site examined those who met Roper's definition of an 'influential', and found that these influentials rely heavily on the web. In fact, the web was shown to be the media used most frequently by them during the average week.
Marketers take note
Importantly for marketers, the majority of online influentials said that they would definitely recommend the internet be used by advertisers who wanted to reach people like them. Another critical finding for marketers was that the online influentials don't act alone on information they receive - instead, they are extremely active in passing it along to friends and acquaintances.
The study also found that online influentials spend more time using the internet (excluding e-mail) than any other media during the week. The top two media they recommend for advertisers to reach them are the internet (56%) and newspapers (also 56%). The internet also topped the list of media used when researching places to visit (86%) and what to buy (82%).
Spreading the news
Online influentials actively spread information and influence others, with 67% saying they are either are asked for or forward advice and information about products and services. Those who forward advice about products and services commonly send it to between 5 and 20 other individuals, depending upon the subject of the advice being given.
In previous research, Roper found that 82% of influentials have internet access, compared to only 54% of the general population, confirming the idea that the internet is a key means of reaching this group. With 34% of its audience qualifying as influentials, WashingtonPost.com provided an appropriately strong statistical sample for Roper's research.
"This study adds important information to our ongoing research about the media activities and attitudes of online influentials," said Ed Keller, CEO for RoperASW. "The results also reinforce the critical role influentials play in word-of-mouth marketing."
"Because influentials play a key role in impacting everything from which technology products are hot to which politicians we elect, this research provides vital information for marketers," concluded Christopher Schroeder, CEO and publisher of WashingtonPost Newsweek Interactive.
The full results and methodology for the study have been made available on WashingtonPost.com's web site.