Social brand relationships: good, bad, or just ugly?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 16, 2011

Social brand relationships: good, bad, or just ugly?

Half of consumers don't want to be bothered by brand messages while they are using their social networks, according to the TNS Digital Life study, which found that 'digital waste' is polluting the online world because brands are failing to listen to what consumers actually want.

The study concluded that many businesses are wasting both time and money trying to reach consumers online without realising that many don't like big brands invading their social networks. The race to bring brands into the world of social networking has been largely driven by the channel's ability to address customers quickly and cheaply, TNS found that if those efforts are not carefully targeted and personalised, they are completely wasted on half of all recipients.

In fact, 57% of consumers in developed markets said they do not want to engage with brands via social media, rising to 60% in the US and 61% in the UK. Instead, misguided digital strategies are generating mountains of digital waste, from friendless Facebook accounts to blogs that no one reads. Interestingly, however, there is an ever-increasing amount of content produced directly by consumers themselves, with 47% of online consumers now commenting about brands online.

The problem is that all of this content, taken as a whole, is causing digital pollution and making it harder for brands to be found, heard, and trusted online - and that presents a major challenge for businesses trying to enter into any meaningful dialogue with online consumers.

"Winning and keeping customers is harder than ever," said Matthew Froggatt, chief development officer for TNS. "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 realise this potential. Choosing the wrong channel, or simply adding to the cacophony of online noise, risks alienating potential customers and impacting business growth."

Although 54% admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products, the research showed that brands need to address and use the digital channels more carefully if they are to use it to deepen relationships with customers and prospects.

Fast growth markets were found to be far more open to brands on social networks. Only 33% of Colombians and 37% of Mexicans said they don't want to be bothered by brands, while 59% of people in fast-growing countries said they see social networks as a good place to learn about brands. However, even in those markets, brands must still plan and manage online engagement carefully to avoid alienating consumers and doing more harm than good.

When it comes to posting reviews, 46% of those who had posted online comments about companies said they did so because of a simple desire to impart helpful advice to others. But the motivations of online commentators can be self-serving, as 61% of consumers said they were driven to engage with brands online by a promotion or special offer.

In general, more people prefer to praise brands online than to complain about them (13% compared to 10%). The Spanish are the least likely to praise online, with only 10% saying that they would do so, while Argentineans are the most likely to complain about brands online (12.5%).

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