Commentary

Social Networks Not Much of a Marketplace

A study, recently released by WorkPlace Media, outlines some of the hurdles facing major brands as they attempt to harness the worlds of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, to create an impact with consumers.The study, which polled office Internet users, found that 55% maintained at least one social networking account. However, of those respondents, only 43% reported accessing their social networking accounts at work, and even for those with access, 78% reported spending less than 30 minutes per day on their site(s).

Time Spent on Social Networking Sites at Work (% of Respondents)

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Time Spent

% of Respondents

Less than 30 minutes

78%

30 minutes

13

1 hour

5

Open all day

4

Source: WorkPlaceMedia, May 2009

The overall impact of a brand's presence on social networking sites was shown to be minimal in terms of impact and perception. 96% of respondents said their opinion of a product brand did not change if that brand had no presence on a social networking site, and only 11% of social networking users reported following any major brand through a social networking site, and just 12% of respondents said their opinion of a brand changes if that brand maintains a social networking presence.

Social Networking Impact on Brand Perception (% of Respondents)

Activity

Yes

No

Follow a brand's social network account

11%

89%

Opinion changes if brand has no presence on social media site

4%

96%

Opinion changes if brand has significant presence on social media site

12%

88%

Source: WorkPlaceMedia, May 2009

 

Product or Brand Recommendations From Social Networking Site (% of Respondents

Activity

Yes

No

Recommended business/product via social network site

25%

75%

Received a business/product recommendation via social network site

33

67

Acted upon business/product recommendation from social network site

18

82

Source: WorkPlaceMedia, May 2009

Stephanie Molnar, CEO of WorkPlace Media, says "When it comes to influencing brand perception and purchase decisions... social networking... has a long way to go."

A recent Harris poll also supported this assertion, says the report, showing that word of mouth is a much stronger influencer than social networking. When a group of adults were asked about their information-gathering process for the most recent purchase they made,

  • 21% of Harris poll respondents cited "face-to-face with a person not associated with the company, such as a family member, business colleague or friend."
  • 12% cited a phone call with someone similar
  • 4% mentioned using "public online social-networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace"
  • 4% mentioned "private social networking sites, such as customer communities"

According to additional findings from the WorkPlace Media survey, Facebook was the clear winner in terms of users:

  • 89% of respondents reported having a Facebook account
  • 40% MySpace
  • 31% LinkedIn
  • 18% Twitter

When asked what appeals about social networking:

  • 89% said it "allows me to stay connected to friends/family." 

Of the 18% who reported acting upon a business or product recommendation from social networking sites, the leading categories were:

  • Entertainment (53%)
  • Dining Out (50%)
  • Groceries (23%)
  • Beauty Care/Cosmetics (21%)
  • Apparel (20%) 
  • Electronics (15%)
  • Pet Care (15%)

For the complete release, please visit here. Or, for  complimentary research and charts, visit here and click on "Complimentary Research."

 

 

10 comments about "Social Networks Not Much of a Marketplace".
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  1. Alex Morrison from AgencyNet Interactive, July 23, 2009 at 9:40 a.m.

    I simultaneously agree and disagree with the premise of this study.

    Simply being "on a social network" in and of itself is simply not going to have an impact on brand perception, and I'm glad we now have some data to support that notion.

    I do take issue, however, with the view that social networks are simply one more media vehicle through which to disseminate a brand's messaging. Whether you have a twitter account or a facebook fan page is truly secondary to the larger point here-- which is that the digital marketing (including social media) is not about just showing up. It's about forging meaningful connections with consumers by aligning with the things they care about, not about putting a logo up on facebook and hoping people become your fan.

    The fatal flaw of this study (and how I fear it will be mis-used) is that it assumes that all social media is created equal, and somewhat negates the role of creativity and larger brand planning from the equation. If a brand is authentic in its voice and actions, and empowers its core group of advocates, the "social media" part of the equation as defined by this study is a relatively trivial outpouring of the meaningful activity that's happening below the surface.

    So, while this study successfully determines that a "surface" social media presence is inadequate and ineffective, it only further proves the need for deeper and more meaningful engagement with consumers, and reaffirms the role of differentiated and authentic brand positioning and voice.

  2. MONIROM S., July 23, 2009 at 9:43 a.m.

    The key factor in this survey is:
    1. It is a workplace survey
    2. Many people work at jobs that block facebook access
    3. Most people are actually working while they are at work.

    The results may have skewed differently if the survey was done in the context of downtime or time away from work.

  3. Trevor Stafford from Red Canary, July 23, 2009 at 9:46 a.m.

    Studies like this remind me that people who do studies know absolutely nothing about how 'social media' interacts with *cough* brand, or how it might in the future.

    "96% of respondents said their opinion of a product brand did not change if that brand had no presence on a social networking site". Gee, thanks.

    Social Media isn't a revolution and it isn't revolutionary. It's not even a new way of doing things. It's just people connecting as we would have in a Longhouse or Church or Athenian forum. Would you expect a peddler hawking his wares to be welcome in a place like that? No. But that same hawker would sell ten-fold if a few members of that community talked about his product to their peers.

    Stop measuring social media against traditional media. Stop being so worried about numbers and start creating good products that people want to talk about.

  4. MONIROM S., July 23, 2009 at 9:56 a.m.

    I agree with Alex about "simply being on a social network." Social media presence is much like having a web presence — it does nothing for your business if it (the effort) is not proactive in engaging consumers in a meaningful way.

    A great example is FamilyFun's proactive twitter feed. Instead of shilling just for the magazine, it offers Mothers/Fathers daily ideas on how to keep their children active and happy during the summer months.

    Even though FamilyFun is owned by Disney, most all of FF's tweets are balanced: 10 activity tweets for every 1 recommendation about FF's website ot magazine.

  5. Walter Pike from PiKE, July 23, 2009 at 10:13 a.m.

    Wow, this shows how far people still need to go to understand social media. Word of Mouth still a bigger influencer than social media? What a statement! care to explain the difference!

    You need to stop thinking about Social Media in mass media terms its not the same thing, its not another channel. So you cant ask the same questions in research.

    You also cant criticise a medium because its used badly.

    People trust the recommendations of their friends, their friends are connecting in bars, PTA meetings and in social media.

    You cant compare to WOM becuase social media is WOM on steroids.

    Think engagement not eyeballs.

  6. Walter Pike from PiKE, July 23, 2009 at 10:15 a.m.

    Wow, this shows how far people still need to go to understand social media. Word of Mouth still a bigger influencer than social media? What a statement! care to explain the difference!

    You need to stop thinking about Social Media in mass media terms its not the same thing, its not another channel. So you cant ask the same questions in research.

    You also cant criticise a medium because its used badly.

    People trust the recommendations of their friends, their friends are connecting in bars, PTA meetings and in social media.

    You cant compare to WOM because social media is WOM on steroids.

  7. Trevin Bensko-Wecks, July 23, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.

    Trevor makes a good point - if your product, service or conversation isn't relevant, authentic, and valuable then all marketing efforts will work equally well - which is to say, not at all. Mary that with Walter's (correct) assertion that WOM is Social Media and you've got a recipe for success: great product/service = social discussions = consumer buy-in.

    I'd be interested to find out if the 11% of brand followers via social, cited by this study, have a higher retention and conversion rate for the brands they're following. I'm betting so.

  8. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, July 23, 2009 at 11:03 a.m.

    "Only" 42% use a social networking site at work? That seems like a substantial portion to me.

  9. Ryan Deutsch, July 23, 2009 at 11:27 a.m.

    It is very interesting that having a "presence" on FaceBook or Myspace has become synonymous with Social Marketing or having a Social Strategy. It is not surprising that the impact of a brands presence on a social network has little effect on impact or consumer perception. After all, the consumer is not on Facebook to interact with brands, they are there to communicate with friends, family and others within their personal networks. StrongMail clients are focused on motivating brand advocates to speak on their behalf. Motivating consumer to spend social capital on a brands behalf is the key, and this takes more strategic thinking than simply throwing up a facebook page. I would suggest that social networks add scale to word of mouth marketing but they do not drive advocacy on their own...that’s the brands job.

  10. Elaine Starling from Starling Media Services, Inc., July 23, 2009 at 11:29 a.m.

    The study is interesting in what it doesn't say. Compare every medium side-by-side at work and show what percentage of time people spend with each one. I suspect Social Media shows far higher usage than any other medium.

    The key to the effective use of any medium is your ability to engage the audience and prompt interaction. Per the research I've seen and my own experience, the metrics shown from this study place social media ahead of most media. A comparison with direct response results would really round out this study nicely... Hint, Hint ;)

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