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Marketers failing on social media as customers want offers not conversation claims study

SensisMarketers are failing to give consumers what they want on social media after mistakenly believing the public are keen to have a two-way conversation with their brand.

A study from marketing services specialists, Sensis, found consumers are more interested in receiving offers, incentives and give-aways than merely talking to companies.

The results of the Sensis Social Media Report, which spoke to 1,100 businesses and 800 consumers, is likely to surprise many marketers who have been taught not to overtly sell on social platforms but to “engage” on a more conversational level.

The study found that while 84 per cent of marketers are looking to open a conversation, most punters want discounts (45 per cent), give-aways (35 per cent) and coupons (30 per cent). But less than a third of companies are currently offering such promotions.

However, more worrying for marketers is the increase in people wanting nothing from brands – a statistic which has risen sharply from 26 per cent to 34 per cent.

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Sensis digital general manager Evan Ravensdale said the overall findings illustrate a host of missed opportunities for brands.

“Social media is now an important part of people’s everyday lives. Businesses need to focus on using it in the way consumers want and at the moment, it seems there are a lot of missed opportunities,” he said.

Ravensdale admitted the top-line result is at odds with common thinking which suggests marketers should steer away from a hard sell policy on social platforms.

But he made the distinction that it remained important for brands to take a softly softly approach when first building an audience base before moving to a more sales-driven message.

“People are engaging with businesses and once they have established a relationship they are absolutely open to being sold to,” he said. Offers and incentives should also be “weaved in around other great content”, he said, and should not be the sole communication.

Ravensdale put down the rise in the number of people rejecting brands altogether to a general trend for consumers to reduce their number of friends on Facebook or people they follow on Twitter.

“It may also be that some brands have been a bit too aggressive in selling to begin with,” he suggested.

Generally, Ravensdale said brands are still lagging behind the wider public in terms of a social strategy, with the number of firms adopting social strategies showing a decline from last year.

While half the population is active on social platforms every day – rising to 79 per cent in the 18 to 29 age bracket – less than a third of small and medium enterprises have a social strategy, and 56 per cent of large companies. In last year’s study those figures stood at 37 per cent for SMEs and 77 per cent for larger organisations.

“We were surprised, particularly with the fall in large companies on social,” Ravensdale said. “With the number of channels available, social media marketing has become very complex and confusing and that may have caused some companies to step back.”

Nevertheless, it remained important for brands to stick with it and understand where their consumers are and focus on those platforms.

“It is important for businesses not to spread themselves too thinly,” he said.

But even those who do have a social networking presence are failing to monitor its success, with barely a quarter measuring their return on investment while according to the study almost half (46 per cent) have “no idea”  how much money they have invested in social.

“There are huge opportunities for business growth if you have a sound, consistent social media strategy. The key is to treat it like any other business investment by planning, executing and then measuring the results,” Ravensdale said.

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The report also studied consumer reaction to advertising on social media, with an even split (38 per cent to 39 per cent) of those happy or unhappy about brands advertising their wares on social platforms.

A further 55 per cent said they take no notice of adverts and 31 per cent claimed they are turned off by brands who advertise on social platforms.

The report also identified where and what time of day people are using social media. First thing in the morning was the most common time to use social platforms (45 per cent), followed by after work and last thing at night with 40 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.

The lounge was the most common room of the house to monitor social activity – 72 per cent – followed by the bedroom with 43 per cent while 14 per cent of consumers take their mobiles to the toilet to check social media.

Steve Jones

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