You'd think that, when it comes to finding local information, nothing can replace recommendations from friends and contacts, right? And yet, according to The Pew Internet & American Life Project, most people don't turn to Twitter or Facebook for referrals to businesses.
They do tap the good old interwebs for info on restaurants, bars and the like — "they" making up a whopping 51 percent of adults — but 38 percent of those users are just hitting up search engines. Only 3 percent say they use social networking to get their biz info. (Get past the restaurant searches, and it's just 1 percent for places like retail stores.)
Not that personal recommendations aren't valuable. In fact, "old school" word-of-mouth still looms in the retail scene, especially for small shop owners. While the internet might be tops among users for uncovering local resources, the next most popular choices are newspapers (31 percent) and word-of-mouth (23 percent). This could be fueled by the lack of presence of smaller retailers in digital marketing. Back when I worked at a retail magazine, it was pretty rare for small store owners to invest time and money in social marketing. They just didn't see the point, and many still don't: A recent study showed that only 12 percent of local businesses viewed social media as essential, though 50 percent believed word-of-mouth marketing was crucial. And where the little guys go, some shoppers will follow — after all, not everyone is committed to the Walmart way of life.
As for newspapers, well that one's interesting. A lot of newspapers have gone digital these days, but of the 31 percent who prefer them, the vast majority still opt for the printed pulp variety.
The holiday season might be making me a little nostalgic or something, but I have to admit — part of me misses the old days, when I'd dive into that fat Sunday newspaper and peruse the sections, getting ink on my hands as I flipped through stories and clipped ads and coupons. It's crazy to think there are some people out there who don't know what it feels like to fold a newspaper back in half, or even just pick up the phone and dial a friend about an awesome new restaurant. Nowadays it's all websites and mobile apps, texting friends and writing up reviews on Yelp.
Generations ago, people used to come together in town circles to socialize and share information. These days, we have more powerful tools at our disposal, to be sure. But even as we gain efficiency, I feel something else has been lost somehow.
How do you find or share local information? Do you hit up your social networks, simply search Google, or are you more old school than that?
[source Pew Internet & American Life Project]