There are a lot of pieces of the social/shopping puzzle, and you need to look at all of them to figure out the big picture.

You know by now that your customers are on social media. And they’re talking. New studies show that not only are people talking about brands, but their friends and acquaintances are listening… and reacting to what they hear.

eMarketer reports on an April 2011 study that asked what actions a social network user would take after following or liking a brand. They found that an amazing 61% of Facebook users (49% on Twitter) are more likely to talk about that brand, while 59% (FB) and 53% (Tw) would go so far as to recommend the brand.

Mind you, that’s above and beyond the 58% (FB) and 53% (Tw) that are more likely to purchase from the brand themselves.

Word of mouth. The Holy Grail of puzzle pieces, no?

But if a tree (or a tweet) falls in the forest, with no one around to hear it… does it make a sound?

Fortunately, such zen-questions-of-reality aren’t necessary. Not only are there people in the social media forest, they’re listening for the tree to crash down.  Or something.

eMarketer helpfully points to another study that asked adult and teen user of social media who they trust when it comes to brands. When the information comes from friends/acquaintances, 25% trust what they learn from social media posts and 20% trust tweets.

Fans or followers of a brand are influenced by what they see from these company accounts, but they are also influenced by what their friends say about brands or companies that they don’t necessarily follow.

(It’s worth noting that definitions of “friends” and “acquaintances” have changed in the age of social media, with millions of people using the terms to describe people they may never have actually met outside of social networks. In addition, survey respondents reported that they trusted 7% (posts) and 5% (tweets) of what they read from total strangers as well as those from people they “know”.)

But here’s another piece to the puzzle.

Shoppers are checking social media while they shop.

The Knowledge Networks study found that 27% of US mobile internet users turned to social media to compare or check prices before, during or after shopping, while 24% checked reviews and 16% got coupons or discounts for local businesses.

So your customers are on social media. If they like or follow a brand, they’re likely talking about that brand. Their friends and acquaintances trust what they say. And more mobile users are consulting social media when they’re shopping.

Put it all together now.

Getting the picture?