Marketers often tout social media as a channel that allows them to reach consumers with messages seamlessly tailored to their interests and social interactions. But nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they “hate” when a company targets them through their social networking profile, and 58% agree that social media marketing is invasive, according to a new study.
At the same time, findings from Insight Strategy Group showed a majority of those surveyed (55%) believe social networking sites are the best way to give a company feedback and that posting about a product or service on a social site can have a strong impact on a brand.
In short, people like being able to provide feedback to marketers via social media -- but they don’t necessarily want to be followed by them.
The series of privacy controversies Facebook has run into over the years, culminating in its consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission in November, underscore public concerns with how personal data is shared on the world’s largest social network. Among other things, the settlement allows users to opt into changes with how their information is shared with advertisers and others.
The Insight Strategy study suggests people who have more experience social networking online are more comfortable interacting with companies. 62% of those who have been using social sites for more than eight years are following brands, compared to 46% of those on social networks for only three to four years, and 20% using them for less than a year.
Overall, more than half (54%) of people say they like it when a company has a page or feed on a social networking site. Not surprisingly, incentives help attract consumers. The most common reason for following a brand on social networks is to get special news and deals, cited by 58% of respondents.
While social networks have made it easier to keep up with friends and create stronger ties to more people, they also require users to “manage” their online interactions more than in the physical world, given the lack of context. More than half (51%) say Facebook doesn’t capture the “real me,” and almost two-thirds (64%) disagree you can learn more about someone online than you can in person.
That is, in part, because people try to project more air-brushed versions of their lives on social networks. The study found 55% share good news on Facebook, while only 26% shared bad news. That compares to 60% of people sharing both good and bad news in person.
Uncertainty about who is reading social network posts led people to be more guarded in online conversations. More than half (53%) say it’s not clear who can see a comment or post on Facebook, and 64% “hate” that the world can know so much about them through their online profile without knowing them in person.
The research also underscores generational differences among Facebook users. Half of those 18 to 34 prefer to communicate via the social networking site rather than through email versus 23% of people aged 35 to 64. And 43% overall believe Facebook is improving all the time, while about the same proportion (46%) say it will be replaced by a new social networking site.
In that vein, 40% of people using social networks for more than eight years believe Google+ is the future of social networking, believing it won’t make the same mistakes as Facebook. Google confirmed last week the company’s social networking service had hit 90 million users worldwide, double its size three months earlier. Facebook has more than 800 million users globally.