Welcome to the new influence landscape, says Universal McCann (UM), the global media agency.

In When Did We Start Trusting Strangers: The How the Internet Turned Us All into Influencers, UM analyzed the online behaviors of thousands of Internet users in 29 countries. UM found that today, we trust strangers as much as close friends. Furthermore, “friendship is no longer local or face to face: it’s becoming distant and virtualized,” the report asserts.

Most importantly, the power of social media affords everybody with access to the Internet to be an influencer.

Social media adoption in this study includes:

  • Read blogs/weblogs
  • Start my own blog/weblog
  • Leave a comment on a blog site
  • Upload my photos to a photo sharing site
  • Upload a video clip to a video sharing site
  • Watch video clips online
  • Create a profile on a social network.

A note on methodology: this survey covers adults in what Universal McCann calls the “Active Internet Universe:” adults between 18 and 54.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: I’ve highlighted two key health related points buried in Universal McCann’s data. First, that 24% of Active Internet users research personal healthcare issues online. Second, 42% of Active Internet users recommend personal health care topics online. These numbers illustrate that at least 4 in 10 people who actively use the Internet have some passion around a health issue they want to share.

Remember the methodology here: (1) this is a global sample and (2) those sampled were between 18 and 54. This rules out adults 55 and older, a cohort of people that more intensively use health services and may have even more experience with health products and services (e.g., prescription drugs, medical devices, plans, providers) than a younger population.

Universal McCann concludes that, “There is a new level of transparency and truth that all public institutions, companies and brands have to adhere to.” This is at least as true for the health industry as it is for other vertical markets such as financial services, real estate, and food.