Posted September 26, 2008 6:39 pm by with 16 comments

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I have to say that this one came as a bit of a shocker for me: apparently 93% of American consumers want businesses on social media sites, according to the aptly-named 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study. Odd, I thought when most Facebook users rebelled against Beacon, this was exactly what they didn’t want.

When asked whether businesses should interact with consumers on social media sites, 85% said yes (I guess the other 8% either subscribed to a “seen and not heard” school of thought).

Specifically, Americans believe:

  • Companies should use social networks to solve my problems (43%)

  • Companies should solicit feedback on their products and services (41%)

  • Companies should develop new ways for consumers to interact with their brand (37%)

  • Companies should market to consumers (25%) [I assume this means online or on social media sites, not just in general]

However, don’t expect that bending the will of the majority of consumers here will automatically earn their loyalty: 56% of American consumers “feel both a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.” (I guess the other 19% are still miffed even after a business wrote on their wall: “oops, sry about the crappy product. kthxbye!”)

On the other hand, two thirds of larger households (3+ people) and higher income households ($75,000+ annual income) do feel more loyalty to brands they interact with online. One third of younger consumers (18-34) feel that brands should actively market to them online (but when businesses do, via programs like Beacon, consumers will balk).

Cone’s director of new media, Mike Hollywood, explains the distinction here: “Americans are eager to deepen their brand relationships through social media. It isn’t an intrusion into their lives, but rather a welcome channel for discussion.” The discussion seems to be most welcome, of course, when businesses don’t force their messages on consumers, instead giving consumers the ability and the option to initiate the interactions on social media sites.

But don’t necessarily expect them to interact with you too much: a quarter of those surveyed (33% of men surveyed and 17% of women surveyed) “frequently” interacted with brands on social media sites, meaning at least once a week. Overall, 60% said they’d interacted with businesses on social media sites.

Cone doesn’t define social media sites in its release. I’d hope that this included at the least social networks, like MySpace and Facebook, and individual company blogs.


  • The problem with Beacon was that it infringed on user’s privacy in the background. (“hey, maybe I don’t want to tell all my friends that I just bought whatever it was”).

    On the other hand, if I can follow a business I like on Twitter, or get my friends to recommend me businesses I’m interested in on GigPark — that opens a channel of communication and perhaps even conversation, that I think many consumers are in favour of.

    Tony’s last blog post..Online introduction to Computer Science from Stanford Engineering (for free!)

  • Jordan McCollum

    Right, which is why I said, “The discussion seems to be most welcome, of course, when businesses don’t force their messages on consumers, instead giving consumers the ability and the option to initiate the interactions on social media sites.”

  • Hey Jordan, thanks for the mention. Your assumptions may or may not be correct – overall we found the results to be quite compelling. To your point, I think the big takeaway here is that consumers are expecting to see (and for the most part, interact with) brands in these media, but they clearly want to interact on their terms – and by the rules that govern interpersonal relationships in social media.

    To address your question – the definition of social media for this study was up to the participant – in the true sense of social media.

    Mike Hollywood
    Director of New Media, Cone

  • Those numbers sure are staggering. It only emphasizes the importance of businesses being online. No one can defend not being online these days…that’s for sure.

    Nick Stamoulis’s last blog post..Social Blogging Goes To The Next Level

  • My gut instinct says that this is exaggerated, but perhaps what will work here will be perceived attempt to improve customer service and a desire to come up to customer expectations.

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..Most Value Packed Cars

  • The reality for business is, consumers now trust each other more than they trust brands. Our sister company at Y&R, Media Edge/CIA found that 76% of people rely on what others say versus 15% on advertising. 92% of consumers now cite word of mouth as the best source for product and brand information. Business has to let go of that irresistible temptation to stick to the monologue and join the conversation.

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  • Wow that’s a lot of businesses, I guess if they are on social media sites, people will feel some sort of connection towards that business and get to know the business better

  • Those are interesting figures. My interpretation is that consumers want to see brands online but are not entirey sure why. I would suggest the get comfort from seeing the brands where they operate themselves, as it offers proof that the company is as dynamic as they are – they may think a brand that isn’t online is struggling to maintain its position in the market or its interest in its customers. But they just want to see the brand there, but not necessarily have to interact with it. Is this a fair assessment?

    Although the survey talks about consumers, we are finding many of the same things in the B2B world too. The referral and recommendation tools on our website our well used by business people happy to recommend their suppliers on to their peers.

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ
    [link removed]

  • Consumers are fickle, and at large indecisive. Their own answer to the poll could be an incorrect reflection of what they actually desire to see. People may just like to look at ads, it may have nothing to do with whether or not they are interested in purchasing the product or not. The same way some people like to spend time in the mall seeing all of the beautiful shops and boutiques, but not actually have any intent on purchasing.

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  • MGA

    I agree with Jordan McCollum : Businesses shouldnt irritate the users with pop-up ad windows or some other way of distracting people while they are enjoy sharing their social activities. On the other hand, those social websites are high traffic websites, and why shouldnt businesses has their ads running there. I guess it would be nice for the businesses that targets quick consumer markets but the ones that requires long decision process should spend money or time on those social network websites…

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