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Survey reveals consumers' hostility to brands' commercial messages through social media

Results of a new survey have revealed that the majority of consumers do not like social media sites to be used by brands for advertising or commercial messaging despite their actual behaviour on social media sites demonstrating much more of a willingness to engage with the brands.


Survey reveals consumers' hostility to brands' commercial messages through social media

The survey by database marketing firm GI Insight of more than 1,000 UK consumers revealed that 64% of the respondents who had used social media sites admitted to having 'liked' or 'friended' social media pages run by brands or companies. In addition, 68% of those who had done so said that they were happy to receive advertising or personalised commercial messages from the brands with which they had established a relationship.

However, 49% of respondents who had endorsed brands on social media said they had also 'unfriended' or 'unliked' a company or brand after receiving "an annoying level of messages" from it. In addition, 81% of the respondents using social media said they would be "seriously put off" a brand if it contacted them directly with commercial messages rather than posting updates via their newsfeeds.

Andy Wood, GI Insight’s managing director, explained: "Overall, the results show that the vast majority of British consumers are extremely wary of commercial messaging via social media and are keen to retain control over how and where they are exposed to it. This is an area in which companies and brands need to tread with a great deal of care. It is very easy to spook the consumer on social media by making uninvited overtures or getting heavy-handed with too many sales pitches."

The research also revealed  differing attitudes between the sexes, with 87% of female respondents who belonged to at least one social media network saying they objected to sites being "invaded" by advertising and commercial messages compared to only 76% of male respondents. In spite of this, women were found to be more willing to actively engage with a brand by 'friending' or 'liking' its page with 68% of female social media users having done so, compared to just 58% of men.

Unsurprisingly, the results show that social media usage declined steadily with age and that 18 to 24 year-old respondents were the heaviest users at 90%. However, the young were found to be the most outwardly hostile to commercial contact via social networks, with 88% of respondents aged between 18 and 24 regarding it as an unwelcome intrusion. 

When respondents were interested in a company or brand, young consumers were shown to be more willing to engage with it through social networking. The survey found that 72% of 18 to 24 year-old respondents using social media had 'liked' or 'friended' a brand’s page, compared to 59% of respondents aged 55 or older.

Wood continued: "The research reveals social media to be a channel with tremendous potential as part of a more broad-based marketing strategy that involves traditional direct channels – email, post, SMS, telephone – and other activities aimed at building customer relationships, including loyalty schemes. But if a brand wants to talk directly in a highly tailored and personalised way to a consumer, a social media network is not the way to do it at the moment. 

"This is a highly personal space for the vast majority of consumers and they want to be in complete control of it – plus the mechanisms and data necessary for real and productive customer dialogue are just not available."

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