By Peter Young
Social Media is a name on many peoples’ list, and a channel on many advertisers’ marketing plans – however – as many advertisers have recently found – it may not necessarily be the most effective channel in terms of direct response.
Certainly the research would suggest the potential traffic is there. Research suggests that around 60% of Americans use social media sites, with around three quarters of this figure visiting a site at least once a week. That by itself would suggest that there is a significant branding opportunity alone via social media sites, so what are the problems?
According to recent research by the IDC, sites such as Facebook and MySpace are consistently and significantly underperforming. Only around 57% of social net users clicked on an ad over the last year. Compare this against an industry average of around 79% of users clicking on at least one ad – and you see the massive gulf – and the issues facing potential advertisers. Further to this, those users who did click on ads were also found to be more careful with the money. Only 11% of users were found to subsequently found to have made a purchase, compared to a research average of around 23%.
Certainly the economic climate will have had some impact on those figures, however it still makes interesting reading–particularly in contrast to a recent Cone study which suggested that companies should use social media more. In particular users highlighted the following as areas where company involvement would be welcomed:
• 43% of respondents highlighted that organisations should use social media for problem solving
• 43% should use social media for product feedback
• 37% for brand activity
• …and only 25% for marketing
That sentiment is reinforced by the IDC report. Whilst sites like Facebook and MySpace have facilities which allow a breakdown of user data by location, age, personal interests and the like, the IDC report found that only 3% of users are OK with publishers using their data for marketing purposes, so in essence the use of this data is next to useless at present.
This may therefore explain the lukewarm take up of advertisers for increased spend in social media – however there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Research by Gfk Roper Public Relations/Epsilon suggests advertisers are looking to introduce more social media/word of mouth advertising – however over half of these suggested this was still low on their list of priorities at present . Traditional social media channels such as blogging, podcasts/vodcasts and Internet Forums/Webinars were found to be more prominent on advertisers priorities however there still seems some reluctance to engage with the social networks directly themselves.
Social Media is not a channel that is going to be suitable for all – and this may highlight many advertisers reluctance to incorporate social media advertising as a consistent part of the marketing mix. If you are thinking about social media do your research and make sure you understand your potential audience. Social media is not an easy nut to crack – but one thing’s for sure. If you do crack it however – the chances are you will win big… however you may have to wait for it to mature.