According to a new study from BlogHer, the community for women online, people are now more influenced by the opinion of a blogger than a celebrity when it comes to learning more about products or making a purchase.

The BlogHer 2011 Social Media Matters Study, co-sponsored by PR firm Ketchum, also shows that 78% of the female adult online population are active social media users and nearly twice as many (20%) are motivated to consider products promoted by or with a blogger they know, than by promotions featuring a celebrity (13%).

The study was conducted to gather insights on current social media trends among women, both in the US general online population and members of the BlogHer community. It showed that blogs are playing an increasingly influential role in people’s purchasing decisions:

  • Blog opinions matter: 53% of women blog readers have purchased a product based on a blog recommendation. That number soars to 80% of the BlogHer population.
  • The top reason the general population trusts blog advice is because of their satisfaction with past purchases based on blog recommendations.
  • The top three types of products that the general population seeks reviews and recommendations for on blogs are consumer electronics (35%), computer hardware/software (33%) and movies (33%). Among the BlogHer community, the priorities shift to food/beverage (67%) and clothing/shoes (67%), with movies coming in third at 62%.
  • Almost half (47%) of blog readers tap into blogs for finding new trends or ideas, 35% for finding out about new products, and one in four for help with making a purchasing decision.

In addition, the study found that women see social networking as a way to preserve connections with family and friends. Specific findings include:

  • Blog usage and Facebook usage continue to grow at an equal and modest rate year over year with women (10%).
  • Tech love is all about connecting: 58% of women spend more or about the same time with their friends online as they do offline, yet only 5% feel that social impact has had a negative effect.
  • When asked why technology makes women feel hopeful about the future, the top answer (67%) was that social media makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends.

My take? These findings demonstrate why slapping up a Facebook page and spamming it with sales messages is a strategy doomed to failure for brands and businesses. Marketers should see social media as an opportunity for two-way conversation and to build relationships with REAL influencers.