Speaking on a panel session at Bite Communications Empty 13 event in London today (15 May), Microsoft UK CMO Philippa Snare, Spotify European vice president Chris Maples and Telefonica direct to consumer director of marketing John Bartleson agreed some brands are treading a perilous path of presuming intimacy with consumers on social and “bombarding” them with messages they do not want to receive.
Maples said his concern was not a consumer backlash from consumers but “consumer apathy”, when consumers begin to filter out all the messages from brands.
He added: “One of the challenges continues to be the measurement of digital, but it’s only one millionth of the story. It seems to be that people are measuring what they can measure rather than what they should measure. If you measure just based on response you will keep spamming people with things to get that response, but if you try to measure to get value I feel sometimes less really is more.”
Bartleson said he predicts more consumers will begin to “burrow down” into more personal, smaller social media channels – such as Path or bespoke user-generated forums – to communicate with their friends and avoid brand messages altogether.
Indeed, recent research from social media insight firm SocialBakers found 600,000 users did not visit Facebook in the month of December, while comScore December data found US users are making shorter visits to the site on average month on month.
Bartleson also bemoaned that when active users do follow brands, Facebook sometimes prevents them – through its EdgeRank algorithm, which dictates the content users see in their news feeds – from seeing their content, which is a challenge for marketers with small media budgets.
“What’s problematic is that you can build up such a fan base but if you’re not spending money with Facebook, you’re not reaching those fans. From the consumer side, these people are saying they like us, but Facebook is drawing a fine line of preventing people’s access to the information they are actually interested in and making it contingent on marketing spend,” he said.
Snare advised that brands need to “put the power back into people’s hands” when it comes to digital and social, particularly when it comes to the way brands use consumer data.
She added: “We should let consumers manage their own data so they know what to expect when they follow you on Twitter or sign up to a newsletter – and crucially so they know how to [unsubscribe] from it. We must empower them to know their data is being used responsibility as it’s our responsibility to help people realise when they are sharing data.”
The theme of the Empty 13 event was based on the motion: “consumers don’t want to be [friends with brands]”. Some 61 per cent of attendees voted in favour of the motion at the end of the session.