Social media does not influence consumer purchases as much as much as we might think, with discussions with store employees, company website information and reviews and ratings on other sites the preferred method of researching products and services ahead of making a buying decision, reveals a new study.

Temkin Group surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers to find out what information sources they use to purchase automobiles, cell phones, computers, credit cards, health plans, insurance policies and televisions. The study looked at social media, discussions with friends and employees, discussions with company employees and information on various websites, examining differences across age groups and changes in the past year.

Each sector revealed a preferred method of consumer interaction:

Autos: More than two-thirds of consumers rely on their discussions with employees at the dealership.

Cell phones: Last year as well as this year, interactions with employees are at the top of the list.

Computers: Across all age groups, consumers rely more on discussions with store employees than on information from Facebook or Twitter users.

Credit cards: On average, respondents use information on the credit card website more than they use any other source.

Health plans: Across all age groups, the most used source of information is either discussions with health plan employees or information on the health plan websites.

Insurance policies: Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said that discussing options with insurance agents is helpful. Agents are particularly influential for consumers who are 25 and older.

Televisions: Fifty-six percent of respondents said that reviews and ratings on sites other than the retailer’s or the manufacturer’s are helpful.

The report concluded that while social media under-performed overall, Twitter and Facebook are gaining ground.

“Social media does not yet warrant a lot of hype when it comes to how consumers make purchases, but it is becoming increasingly important,” said Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group.

(Source: Temkin Group. Shopping cart icon via Shutterstock.)