Most young people are open to brands on social media

More than three-quarters of people under 35 are happy for brands to contact them on social media sites, but half would leave a site if it became too commercial.

Research by Webtrends found 85% of consumers are positive about brands interacting with them online but 39% said there was too much advertising on social networks.

According to the study, 19% of social media users said they would regard brands more highly if they interacted with them on a social media site and, of those who have already interacted with a brand in this way, 74% said their approval of the brand increased.

Coca-Cola last week launched a worldwide social media campaign enabling users to follow three young people as they visit the 206 countries where Coca-Cola is sold and post content from their travels.

Adam Brown, director of the office of digital communications and social media at Coca-Cola, said brands need to balance the inclusion of a message with creating compelling content in order to encourage people to return.

“Brands need to be wary about stopping and starting something new,” he said. “In social media you can’t do that, you can’t abandon people. We have to make sure we don’t use these strategies as you would in traditional advertising.”

Ian MacArthur, creative director and head of brand marketing at the NSPCC, said, “If a commercial proposition can blend in and add value, then it’s always welcome, especially if it adds another layer of engagement. But if its intent is hidden then it won’t be long before the masses who frequent social networks will spot the pretender brands and steer around them.”

The research also looked at how regular users of particular social networks responded to brands. This revealed 59% of Twitter users felt a brand had interacted with them successfully, yet only 31% of Facebook users said the same.

Ciarán Norris, head of social marketing at Mindshare Worldwide, said, “It depends on what the audience of each social media site is looking for. Facebook users aren’t interested in being sold to but if you give them valuable content that allows you to be commercial.”

Christian Howes, digital solutions architect at Webtrends, said the key to genuine conversations online is having someone looking after it in-house or who knows the business well. “For social media to be successful you need to know how it affects the other channels of your business; how are you relating it to your bottom line?” he said.

Despite users being positive about brands using social media to target them, more than 55% prefer email for marketing messages.

Ben Ayers, social media and online engagement manager at ITV, said, “Email activity works brilliantly alongside social media. The two need to work hand in hand and can do so really effectively.”

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