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Tech Needs TV

4th of July Reading: Research Helps Segment Social Media Users for Advertisers

Posted by Doug Garnett June - 29 - 2011 - Wednesday

Amid all the hype about social media, I’ve been looking for some decent research so we can begin to segment the social media users – and finally get some actionable reality put into the equation. Two interesting sources that may help have recently come to my attention.

Note that my thinking builds on a couple of my prior blog posts. So you might want to read

Most Consumers Don’t Want to Be Your Friend
or Five Reasons Consumers Will Be Your Friend

The first new source is a study from Pew as summarized in this Media Post article. (Click here for article.)

I can’t validate their research method entirely. Some of the questions seem to pursue obscure truths that consumers can’t articulate. But fundamentally, what they found seems to hold together. And what it shows is that there’s a very small portion of the population that’s very active on social media.

Of the total population, only 59% are registered for social sites. Of those 59%, only 15% update their status and only 20% respond to other people’s posts.

In other words, it seems that roughly 10% of the population is active enough on social media to be a POSSIBLE target. Otherwise, we have some lurkers and a great number of fully inactives.

It gets more interesting when we add in this infographic posted on Mashable. . (Click here for Infographic.)

What’s interesting in this data is that the primary reason people who are on social media also connect with brands is to chase deals. It’s the single biggest brand connection reason at 37% of Facebook users. That compares with 32% who follow because they’re already customers. And a tiny 6% follow because their friends are fans. (Sorry viral enthusiasts.)

Digging deeper we find that over half report friending 5 or fewer brands. FIVE!!!!! That’s five brands out of the 500 or 600 in their lives.

And, continuing the “social media = green stamps” theory, the interaction people have had most often with a brand is entering a sweepstakes (70%). Social media is going to be a successful medium for driving brand preference? Riiiiiight.

Here’s the real kicker: In all this discussion of brands, we aren’t necessarily talking about Toyota. The Top 2 brands consumers report are… Facebook and YouTube. Hmmm. That suggests that the average consumer may engage with less than 3 brands in social media. Yikes – that’s a tiny number.

Some Bottom Line Guesses This gives strength to some hueristically suggested axioms of social media that I’ve been pondering. Here’s a go at it:

- No more than 5% of your target market are active enough on social media to be reachable. (There will be a few exceptions if you have the right product – like tools to aide with social media.)
- Consumers will follow no more than 1% of the brands that are meaningful in their lives. So why expect that it’s you?
- Social media’s economic power comes primarily from “let’s make a deal” announcements, coupons, or free give-aways.
- The majority of your most sophisticated, economically valuable, and brand passionate consumers won’t connect with your brand on social media.
- Effective viral use of social media is so rare that it shouldn’t be seriously considered for a major brand communication effort.

Down at the bottom is one last statistic. They ask “have you ever been influenced by the web when buying a product?”. Um. Duh. A (not) surprising 97% say yes. Note what they didn’t ask: Have you been influenced by social media when buying a product?

Social media is a great medium to achieve certain things. But it will only reach a limited portion of your target market, that portion is NOT going to virally spread your message, and that portion is very “deal oriented” – they are NOT your premium brand customers.

So let’s integrate social into all of our campaigns – it should be. But please, can you evangelists finally stop claiming it’s the entire future of advertising?

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved


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Doug Garnett, DRTV and Technology Industry Expert

Doug Garnett is founder and CEO of DRTV agency Atomic Direct and a leading expert on innovative uses of DRTV, infomercials and other in-depth TV and non-TV messages to build brand and drive sales.

Doug has been working in and around the technology field for 27 years. After starting in aerospace, he spent 5 years selling and marketing supercomputers. Since shifting to advertising, his clients have included AT&T, IBM, Apple, Disney Mobile, Ugobe, Presto, and Netpliance.

Doug sits on the editorial board of Response Magazine, is an adjunct professor of general advertising at Portland State University, and is a member of the Jordan-Whitney Greensheet Panel.

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