Advertising To Social Networkers Tricky

A recent study by InsightExpress, exploring participation trends across social networks, as well as how receptive their members are to advertising, found that  43% of the online population reports using a social networking site.  And, no matter their age or number of profiles, social networkers see advertising as a hot topic.

An almost simultaneous study by Netpop , "Social Networkers US,"  shows that social networkers are much more likely to shop and spend more online than their non-contributing peers. Social networkers buy a variety of products and services and spend an average of $101 online per month, the study found. This compares with non-contributors to social networks, who spend $80 per month.

The Netpop study found that social networking has grown 93% since 2006 and 76% of US broadband users (105 million) are active contributors to the web via social media. In addition, approximately 29%, or 40 million broadband users, are regular contributors to the web specifically through social networking sites and are spending increasing amounts of their online time communicating with each other, both one-to-one and one-to-many.

The top sources used by social networkers, says Netpop, when making shopping decisions are search engines, brand or manufacturer sites, online-only retail sales and auction sites. Some 6% also use social networking sites to decide what to buy.

Insight found that social networkers, when asked how willing they are to see advertising on their social network, claim that they are less willing to view marketing messages on sites where it is currently most obvious. This preference reinforces the idea that social networks are a unique medium in which advertising campaigns must be executed with great care.

Josh Crandall, President at Netpop, said "CMOs have been discouraged, understandably, by the poor performance of standard online ad formats in social media spaces... current... advertising in social networking environments have been limited to traditional, display advertising... (though) Facebook's "engagement ad" unit is a new development... understanding those environments, and working on new approaches to advertising, will become increasingly important as social media consumption grows.

And Drew Lipner, VP, Group Director of the Digital Media Measurement team at InsightExpress, concurs when saying "The broad... acceptance of social networking reinforces the distinct need to develop targeted and relevant campaigns for this channel... recognizing the rapid growth of social networking audiences, advertisers have focused on creative engagement... to apply their brands within a new environment."

The Insight study suggests that opt-in ads seem to be the best route for advertisers to leverage the opportunities provided by these platforms with 40% of social networkers condoning this practice. Only 20% of respondents give behavior-based campaigns the green light.

Response to the concept of randomly generated ads depended on the site, notes Insight, with 23% of LinkedIn, Facebook, Classmates, MySpace, and Reunion profilers saying this approach is acceptable , while 43% of Cafemom, Twitter, and Flickr users find it acceptable.

In looking at the social network landscape, Netpop offers these Key findings about US social networkers:      

  • Social networkers in the US are most likely to be single, employed women, age 18-39 and living somewhere between Indiana and the Atlantic Ocean, or along the west coast
  • A typical social networker connects weekly with an average of 18 people one-to-one, and 110 people one-to-many
  • Social networkers spend an average of 36% of their online time talking and sharing. This compares with 29% for non-contributors to social networks
  • Social networkers use multiple modes to communicate and stay in touch. These include IM, texts, blogs and microblogs

The report says that social networkers spend 36% of their Online time talking and sharing, contrasted to only 29% of non-networkers.

Media Used In Social Networking


% of Social Networkers

% of Non-Networkers (Approximate)










Forum/Discussion Board






Chat room






Video conferencing






Source: Netpop Connect Social Networkers US, December 2008

The Insight study reports that, of those individuals who participate in a social networking site, 71% have profiles on two or more different properties, with 26% having established four or more profiles.

Among social networkers who report having two or three profiles:

  1. 25.6% are 18 to 24 yearss old
  2. 23.3% are 25 to 34 years olds
  3. 14.7% are 35 to 44 years old
  4. 15.6% are 45 to 54 years old
  5. 18.4% are 55 to 64 years old

Among people with four or more profiles:

  • 31 percent are between the ages of 25 and 34
  • 14.1 percent are 55 to 64 years old

Cate Riegner, Vice President of Research, Netpop Research, concludes that "Social media will play the same role in this recession that movies played in the Depression... Brands that experiment in social advertising now will be in the best position to leverage these important media channels when the economy turns the corner."

To review the release from InsightExpress, please visit here, and to view charts from the Netpop study, visit here.


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