Internet marketing experts must find ways to engage with social media users in order to build brand recognition, it has been suggested.

Writing on the Forrester blog, senior analyst Jeremiah Owyang said that as the popularity of social networking sites grows, consumers will become increasingly reliant on their peers when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

As a result, companies must find ways to involve themselves in social media debates about their products and build up a presence on social networking sites in order to influence consumer opinion.

"Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate," said Mr Owyang. "Eventually this will result in empowered communities defining the next generation of products."

Research from Hitwise shows that 9.8 per cent of all UK internet visits went to social networking sites in March, while 8.6 per cent went to online retail sites.

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