There was a time when consumers looked out to relatives, friends and/or neighbours while making purchase related decisions. With the ever-emerging Internet, even strangers sharing common ideas have become influencers, says new wisdom on changing market practices. There are many tools to do this, such as a Website recommendation, a voting button, a favourite list. You name it, the internet has it.

With economic downturn affecting advertisers, promoting brands through conventional advertising is being re-examined by spenders in a new light amid the rise of new Internet habits.

A global study of 17,000 active Internet users across 29 countries conducted by Lodestar Universal, reveals that the rise of social media – which includes social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook and blogs – ‘digital friends’ (like pen pals of yesteryears) and proliferation of Internet channels like photo and video sharing sites are changing the landscape altogether.

Globally, actively influenced categories include consumer electronics, cellphone services, travel options and cinema. Realty is increasing its influence steadily.

Creating an understanding on how brands and marketers should respond to the new changes in technology and the resultant consumer behaviour is essential to keep us ahead of the curve. Just tracking online behaviour is not going to help. As marketers, we have to be able to compare the yield of both platforms to imply appropriate strategies. According to the Internet Innovation Alliance, published content on the Internet has grown 8,760 times since the year 2005. With the content explosion, celebrities endorsing products have gotten increasingly pale in comparison. Problem TVCs?

Despite understanding the benefits of continuing advertising, marketers feel the need to be absent from mass media when overbearing budgets fail. Consumers respond to sentiments and moods rather than factual information. If marketers can understand how to interact with and impact the influence economy so that sentiment and emotions are based on factual information, they can benefit a lot. Social Media is a decision making hub because it is a two-way communication streak where consumers are getting smarter and they feel talking to a cohort is quiet more reliable than watching commercials. So find out what moves your TG and start a conversation today!