Snakes and Ladders in Social Media
A poll commissioned by search agency Tamar shows how brands might win and lose on social media sites.
A poll of 698 UK adults aged between 18 and 35 showed that two-thirds of that population use social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo. Of those people, four-fifths said that they were ‘actively commenting’ on brands, products and services.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, social media usage is very clearly linked to age, with younger groups being more likely to be members of such sites. The bottom end of the age group polled had the greatest involvement in social sites with eight out of ten 18-20 year-olds ‘actively engaged’ in social networking.
Brands are correct to fear negative comments on social media sites. Over half (52%) of those polled said that they had been put off a purchase after they had read criticism of the product or service on such a site. The extent of this issue varies according to the sector the product or service belongs to:
Travel products and services were identified as the sector most at risk from negative comments on social networks, with almost six out of ten (58 percent) saying that negative comments would lead to them abandoning a purchase. This was followed by consumer electronics (e.g. TVs and computers) with 51 per cent, financial services with 44 per cent and communications brands such as broadband and telephone providers with 40 per cent.
Tamar’s marketing manager Rachel Green told NMK that she believes travel is a particular victim in this regard for two reasons. Firstly, buying holidays on the web is a particularly well-established area, and that social media sites allowing readers to contribute their own reviews, such as Tripadvisor, are almost equally well-known. Second, it’s uncommon to read editorial reviews of travel destinations at mainstream media sites. She added that the power of negative comments on social sites adds force to the company’s advice to ‘tread carefully and plan ahead’ when it came to implementing brands’ presence there.
Advertising seems to be a weak option for involvement in social media. Nearly fifty per cent more 18-35 year olds would sooner receive a ‘friend’ request from a brand than see a banner advertisement for them on their profile page. Such requests for friendship might be incentivised in several ways and the research found that special offers and discounts were the best way to users’ hearts with 60% agreeing that these would lead to acceptance of such requests. Previews of forthcoming services and even exclusive product offerings trailed well behind such offers, with positive responses from just 5 and 10 per cent of those polled respectively.
While social networks are not without their dangers for brands, money can buy them love, it seems. Just over half those polled (51%) said that they would be willing to act as brand advocates - “e.g. set up groups for brands, encourage friends to join and participate” - if they were given special offers and discounts. Again, the youngest of those polled (18-20 year-olds) were most likely to agree, with this figure rising to 60%.