Social media offers marketers a new channel to potentially engage their prospective customers, but does not replace the reach and trust found with more traditional media channels -- such as broadcast TV and radio -- according to the latest market study by Vision Critical.
They have examined the growing use of online social networks, which they believe reveals several key implications for marketers. Their reported findings were based on three waves of research and more than 10,000 interviews with respondents in the United States, Britain and Canada. The key findings from the Vision Critical study include:
Trust Remains an Issue on Social Networks
Across the three countries, seven-in-ten respondents who use social networks on a daily basis are concerned about their privacy. Less than one-in-six expressed trust in online social networks, forums and blogs -- compared to one third for radio, television and online news.
The implication: about two-thirds of those surveyed don't trust marketer's traditional advertising messages on any media source (social or traditional).
Social Networkers are Open to Advertising
Despite a general lack of trust and ongoing privacy concerns, almost three-in-five respondents say they are receptive to advertising on social networks. One third believe that credible and trustworthy engagement can lead them to make better purchasing decisions. Nearly one-quarter indicate they have purchased a product as a result of seeing something influential on a social network site.
The Challenge for Marketers
More than half of social networkers say they primarily trust recommendations from family and friends. Therefore, social media marketing efforts are most likely to deliver trust and impact when they resonate with friends and family and result in influential recommendations -- perhaps followed by coupons or special offers.
"Our ongoing research across these three countries suggests that while consumers have very real concerns about the trustworthiness of online social networks, this emerging medium can still be a fertile ground for marketers and advertisers in terms of brand building, product marketing and advertising," says Matt Kleinschmit, Vision Critical's Senior Vice President of Media.
Marketers who want to use social media need to earn their way into the meaningful conversation between family and friends, as these groups deliver much higher levels of trust and credibility than advertising on any media -- social or traditional.
According to the Vision Critical assessment, people use online networks to stay in touch with those few individuals that they trust and care about the most: their close friends and family. These social connections drive the social networking phenomenon, and marketers must recognize that learning about products and services is secondary to the pursuit of social outreach with friends and family.
Without a meaningful connection to friends and family, marketing messages on social networking sites will merely become "more advertising to be avoided" -- that's apparently the main take-away from the their study findings.