It is hard to imagine a world without social media, but at one point in time that is exactly what we were faced with. Just a few short years ago, there was no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to fill that void of emptiness in our lives. As we all know, the digital landscape has undergone a dramatic transformation in a very short amount of time, and the social channel has been an integral part of its evolution. If you are one of the marketers who still believes this new age media is just a fad, listen up, because we have run across some research that may finally get you on the other side of the fence. Research firm Nielsen and NM Incite, a company born out of a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey, recently published “State of The Media: The Social Media Report,” which focuses on research looking at how consumers interacted with brands through social media during the third quarter of 2011. According to the report, people are increasingly using this channel to not only seek out brands, but to connect with them and share the experiences they have with them as well. The collective research effort shows that 60% of consumers who use multiple internet sources to research products discovered a specific brand or business through a social media website. 53% of active social users are engaging to actually follow brands and tell others about those experiences. The vast majority said they do this by relaying their experiences through reviews. As far as what compels social media users to share brand experiences, the report cites a variety reasons. 61% said they share them to commend the company for a job well done. 58% said they do so to protect fellow consumers, while 25% give reviews to punish the brand for a job not so well done. 41% of social media users said they share reviews because of discounts, which highlights the power of incentives. Whatever the reason, the fact that consumers are so willing to share their experiences and play such an important role in the branding process should be viewed as encouraging news for marketers. Identifying High-Value Social Media Users Although social media is arguably the hottest channel going today, it is just one of several in terms of platforms brands should be paying attention to. More research headed up by Nielsen and NM Incite focused on the digital channel as a whole to produce insights into the value of the one constant in today’s internet experience - the consumer. According to the study, brands are likely to find the most valuable consumers in the following three areas: Social Media - The research by Nielsen and company shows that 51% of users were influenced by advertisements on social networking sites that display how many of their friends like or follow the brand presenting the offer. Parents were considered the most valuable overall as 64% were shown to use the social web to discover brands. Local - The rising popularity of location-based technology is also reflected in the study. 45% of consumers acting on local offers are likely to recommend the participating daily deals site to others. Interestingly, only 5% cite using the Foursquare app. Mobile - Some of the most interesting data on consumer value can be found in the mobile category. Nielsen’s research shows that 38% of Americans own a smartphone, while nearly all mobile internet users visit some type of website. In what may be surprising to some, teens were viewed as the most valuable mobile users because they are more likely to respond to ads and upgrade from the free to the paid version of an app. Consumers are plugged in firmly to the digital channel. The brands who understand how they are interacting and adapt their strategy accordingly will be the ones who benefit from that activity.