Businesses are wasting time and money trying to reach people online without realizing many resent big brands invading their social networks – according to findings from a global study launched by TNS, a Kantar company and part of WPP.
The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks, such as Facebook or YouTube, to speak to customers quickly and cheaply – but TNS’s research reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are wasted on half of them.
It found that 57 per cent of people in developed markets do not want to engage with brands via social media – rising to 60 per cent in the US and 61 per cent in the UK. Instead, misguided digital strategies are generating mountains of digital waste, from friendless Facebook accounts to blogs no one reads. This is being combined with ever-increasing content produced by consumers – the study shows 47 per cent of digital consumers now comment about brands online.
The result is huge volumes of noise, which is polluting the digital world and making it harder for brands to be heard – presenting a major challenge for businesses trying to enter into dialogue with consumers online.
“Winning and keeping customers is harder than ever,” said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer, TNS. He continued, “The online world undoubtedly presents massive opportunities for brands, however it is only through deploying precisely tailored marketing strategies that they will be able to realize this potential. Choosing the wrong channel, or simply adding to the cacophony of online noise, risks alienating potential customers and impacting business growth.”
TNS’s Digital Life study asked consumers around the world whether they actually want to engage with brands on social networking websites – either to find out more or to make a purchase.
Although 54 per cent of people admit social networks are a good place to learn about products, the research shows brands must harness digital more carefully if they are to use it to their advantage and deepen relationships with customers and prospects.
The study also reveals big geographic contrasts which highlight the risks of brands employing a catch-all approach that doesn’t take the needs of different consumers into consideration.
Fast growth markets were found to be far more open to brands on social networks. Just 33 per cent of Colombians and 37 per cent of Mexicans said they don’t want to be bothered by them, while 59 per cent of people across fast-growing countries see social networks as a good place to learn about brands. However, even here brands must still plan and manage online engagement carefully to avoid alienating consumers and doing more harm than good, according to TNS.
Matthew Froggatt explains: “Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to – and why. Many brands have recognized the vast potential audiences available to them on social networks; however they are failing to understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified.”
“The key is to understand your target audience and what they want from your brand – social networks aren’t always the right approach. If consumers in one market don’t want to be talked to, can you use an alternative online method – creating owned digital media platforms, targeted sponsorship or search campaigns – to engage in an appropriate way that will achieve business results, without adding to the digital waste pile?”
TNS’s Digital Life study also sheds vital light on why people do engage with brands online. 46 per cent of those motivated to post comments on companies do so for the simple desire to impart advice – with Romanians the most helpful online (55 per cent).
Findings showed that more people like to praise than complain online (13 per cent vs 10 per cent). The Spanish are the least likely to praise online, with just one in ten people saying that they would do this, and Argentineans are the most likely to complain about brands online (12.5 per cent).
However, motivations of online commentators can be self-serving. 61 per cent of consumers are driven to engage with brands online by a promotion or special offer.
When examining global contrasts, TNS found that consumers in fast growth markets are incredibly keen to spend more time and money online than they currently do – presenting major growth opportunities for brands.
There are, however, infrastructure challenges still to be overcome in these countries before businesses can really tap into the enthusiasm for the digital world. 48 per cent of people already online in fast growth markets would use the internet more if it was less expensive – rising sharply in Africa, to 81 per cent of people in Ghana, 71 per cent in Nigeria and 68 per cent in Kenya.
Likewise, while just a quarter of people in developed markets see social networks as a place to buy products, this rises to 48 per cent across fast growth markets. Some of the most eager online consumers are found in India, where 59 per cent see social networks as a good place to buy products from brands.
And when it comes to online shopping habits, Asian consumers are leading the adoption of group buying and purchase via mobile. Almost half (46 per cent) of digital consumers in China already use group buying tools – in stark contrast to Europe where adoption rates are as low as 6 per cent in Sweden and Finland.
Adoption of shopping via mobile is also high in the region – 34 per cent of mobile internet users in China and South Korea shop on their phone, falling to just two per cent in Egypt.
Matthew Froggatt adds: “There is a huge appetite for increased internet access and mobile services among consumers in fast growth markets. Digital Life shows that as online communities mature, brands that can cut through the digital noise have fantastic potential to drive rapid growth from this nascent consumer base.”
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