While Australian consumers visited Facebook more than 6 billion times in 2011 - an average of 1.6 visits per day per person - many consumers are still wary of brand engagement via social media platforms, according to a study by Experian Marketing Services.
With Australians spending an average visit time of over 26 minutes per session on Facebook, the opportunity to tap into such an active audience is considerable.
At the same time, the company's research found that marketers are aligning their marketing spending with the popularity of social media channels with 58% expecting the proportion of marketing budget allocated to social media to increase over the coming 12 months. But, despite this increase in spending, 40% of marketers said they don't yet have the right measurement tools in place to monitor and support their social media strategy.
Highlighting the link between social media brand activity and consumer trust toward their presence, the research highlighted that 58% of brands in Australia have a presence on social media. However, only 18% of consumers rated social media as one of the top three channels they trusted to gather information about a brand or company (compared to 25% who rated Wikipedia.com as one of their top three most trusted channels).
"It's understandable that consumers currently lack trust toward brand activity on social media, and this is a completely normal part of the evolution curve of any new form of marketing communication," explained Matt Glasner, general manager for Experian Marketing Services. "These platforms are social, designed as a way for people to communicate with friends and peers and this opportunity to engage doesn't automatically extend to brands."
The social channel needs to be handled very differently from the marketing approaches used with other channels. To be a genuine and valued part of the conversation, brands must be 'invited in' by consumers, and they must also adopt a more social way of engaging with their audiences.
The study also found that marketers are facing increasing pressure to demonstrate the effectiveness and ROI from their social media strategies and, without the necessary measurement and analysis tools, and segmented campaigns, it can be difficult to find the most effective way to cost-effectively engage target customers via the social channel.
The publication of the study, entitled 'Getting the most from social: An integrated marketing approach', coincided with the launch of Experian Social, a tool aimed at helping marketers to optimise their Facebook advertising to reach their core audiences and build stronger online communities of brand advocates at the lowest possible cost. Using the tool, marketers can launch multiple campaigns to build exposure with key target audiences in a short period of time, and then demonstrate the effectiveness and ROI of each individual advertising campaign launched.