Social Media Working Better for Retention Than Acquisition

Campaigns to acquire new customers have not taken off

Social media marketing has been around for several years, and as marketers begin to converge on best practices and use the channel in more uniform ways, it is emerging that their top goals are brand awareness and cultivating customer loyalty. Conversely, customer acquisition through social media is less important.

A July 2010 survey of US marketers by the Direct Marketing Association and COLLOQUY found that brand awareness was the most popular objective of social media efforts, followed by customer growth and loyalty.

Primary Social Media Objective of US Marketers, July 2010 (% of respondents)

A July eROI study similarly showed brand awareness was the top goal of US marketers using social media, and business-to-business (B2B) marketers reported the same to BtoB magazine and Business.com. In April, search marketers surveyed by MarketingSherpa cited increasing brand awareness and improving brand reputation as the two objectives for which social media marketing was most effective.

The DMA and COLLOQUY also looked at average marketer spending in various areas of social media marketing and how it changed over time. While marketers started out in 2008 spending similar amounts on branding, customer loyalty and customer acquisition, by 2009 customer acquisition budgets had failed to grow as quickly as the others. Customer acquisition budgets more than doubled twice between 2008 and 2010, but they still lagged behind the even more dramatic growth of spending in other areas.

Average Social Media Marketing Spending Among US Marketers, by Objective, 2008-2010 (thousands)

The report noted that customer acquisition is a more important goal for smaller companies, which often use social media as an inexpensive marketing channel. Those companies are devoting budget to gaining new customers through social media, but by definition their budgets are small. They are overshadowed by large companies who have chosen social media primarily as a venue for cultivating customer loyalty and spend more heavily in that area.

Are Twitter Followers Better Than Facebook Fans?

Marketers looking to push out the most effective messages to opt-in recipients must understand how audiences differ across channels and what causes them to connect with brands. Marketing venues that seem similar may differ strongly if their users have different needs and motivations.

According to the final edition of ExactTarget’s “Subscribers, Fans and Followers” report, the differences between email, Facebook and Twitter also include their influence on customer loyalty.

Daily Twitter users who followed a brand were more than twice as likely as daily Facebook users who “liked” a brand to say they were more likely to purchase from the brand after becoming a social media follower. What’s more, Facebook fans were the most likely group to actively disagree with the question. Subscribers to opt-in marketing emails fell in the middle.

US Internet Users Who Are More Likely to Purchase from a Brand After Becoming a Subscriber, Fan or Follower, April 2010 (% of respondents)

The pattern among Twitter followers, email subscribers and Facebook fans was similar when asked about whether they would recommend a brand. A third of Twitter followers said they were more apt to make a recommendation now that they followed a brand, compared with 24% of email subscribers and 21% of Facebook fans. Again, those who “liked” a brand on Facebook were most likely to actively disagree with the statement.

US Internet Users Who Are More Likely to Recommend a Brand After Becoming a Subscriber, Fan or Follower, April 2010 (% of respondents)

A February 2010 survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey also found that Twitter followers were more likely than Facebook fans to say they had an increased chance of buying or recommending the brands they connected with in social media.

These factors make Twitter followers attractive to marketers, but as the ExactTarget report notes, because of Twitter’s much smaller user base just 3% of US internet users follow a brand through the microblogging service. Those who do follow brands on Twitter are likely to be influencers in general, while Facebook users are more like the average consumer. And since Facebook users often become brand fans on the site because they are already fans in real life and want to use the brand as part of their self-image, it may be more difficult for them to actually increase their spending or advocate for the brand more than they did before “liking.”

The Influence of Mobile on Social Marketing’s Future

Mobile platforms and location-based networks could take social marketing to the next level

As the increase in smart device ownership helps put the mobile web in the pocket of more and more Americans, mobile will play a greater role in all forms of content consumption—including social media.

US marketers surveyed in June 2010 by PRWeek and MS&L Group believed mobile social would have important consequences for their brand. Asked which social media efforts would have the greatest effect on their company, 17% said more usage of social media on mobile platforms and a further 12% cited uptake of mobile location-based social networking.

Social Media Efforts with the Most Impact* on Company/Brand, June 2010 (% of US marketers)

Another 4% said investing more in Twitter would be their most important effort. While a majority of users access Twitter from their desktop, the microblogging service is a major example of greater use of social media from mobile platforms. According to the company’s blog, mobile usage of the site rose 62% in about four months, and mobile sign-ups increased from 5% of the total earlier in 2010 to 16%.

Currently, PRWeek and MS&L Group found that few US marketers were using specifically mobile-based social media tools, but the sophistication of smart devices has narrowed the distance between the desktop and mobile for many users.

Social Media Tools Used, June 2010 (% of US marketers)

Much of the marketing opportunity in going mobile lies with the ability to use location data to bring consumers timely messages when they are already nearby and possibly considering a purchase. Social media could prove a smart avenue for such efforts; while pure location-based services like foursquare remain relatively niche, Facebook has picked up location-based check-in services, and social networking has been the single biggest driver of mobile app usage and browsing over the past year.

How Social Media Is Changing Brand Marketing

Four in 10 brand marketers think social creates new challenges to maintaining brand integrity

 

Social media has changed much about how consumers communicate with one another, and has given them the ability to broadcast opinions about brands, products and services further than traditional word-of-mouth can reach. It has also meant something that can be scary for brands: Marketers are no longer fully in control of the message.

According to a study from branding agency MiresBall and KRC Research, 40% of brand representatives around the world felt social media posed new challenges to the integrity of their brand. More than a third said that social networking sites affected brands significantly enough to bring about changes in marketing strategy.

Belief that Social Media Creates New Challenges for Protecting Brand Integrity, 2010 (% of brand representatives worldwide)

But with 500 million consumers reachable on Facebook, and a host of other networking sites, services like Twitter and the rest of the social web, the challenges may be worth it. More than half of brand representatives told MiresBall and KRC that social media gave them an opportunity to reach new customers.

Belief that Social Media Provides an Opportunity to Reach New Customers, 2010 (% of brand representatives worldwide)

Brand marketers were split on whether social media helped create brand loyalty, however. While 35% agreed, another 30% disagreed, with the remainder neutral on the question.

The research also found a disconnect in how marketers thought about their brands and how they tried to reach out to customers on social media. The vast majority of respondents agreed that the brand must define what a company or product is, and that message should be communicated via various PR and marketing channels, including social media, and that the most effective way to communicate about a brand was to stay true to its message. At the same time, marketers were willing to stray from that strategy—especially in the case of social media.

The report suggested that attempts to find superficial social success might be leading brands to create a presence on networks that did not fit with the brand’s personality or use other inappropriate campaigns in the hopes that one would go viral, even if it did not truly convey the brand’s message.

Older Adults Double SocNet Use

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US adults 50 and older have increased their social networking use from 22% to 42% in the past year, according to data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Half of Adults 50-64 Use SocNets
Half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and one in four (26%) users age 65 and older now use social networking sites.

Young adult internet users ages 18-29 continue to be the heaviest users of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, with 86% saying they use the sites.

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Adults 65 and Up Double SocNet Adoption
During the past year, the growth of social networking adoption among internet users ages 18-29 paled in comparison with the gains made by older users. Between April 2009 and May 2010, internet users ages 50-64 who said they use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn grew 88%, and those ages 65 and older grew 100% in their adoption of the sites; compared with a growth rate of 13% for those ages 18-29.

Older Adults Increasingly Share Daily Updates
The use of Twitter and other services to share status updates has also grown among older users, most notably among those ages 50-64. While just 5% of users ages 50-64 had used Twitter or another status update service in 2009, 11% now say they use these tools. On a typical day, 6% of online adults ages 50-64 make Twitter a part of their routine, up from the 1% who did so in 2009.

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One in five (20%) adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% one year ago. Likewise, 13% of online adults ages 65 and older log on to social networking sites, compared with just 4% who did so in 2009.

Older Adults Maintain Interest in Email, Online News
Overall, 92% of those ages 50-64 and 89% of those ages 65 and older send or read email and more than half of each group exchanges email messages on a typical day. Online news gathering also ranks highly in the daily media habits of older adults; 76% of internet users ages 50-64 get news online, and 42% do so on a typical day. Among internet users ages 65 and older, 62% look for news online and 34% do so on a typical day.

Americans Get News on Multiple Platforms
The overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) use multiple platforms to get news on a typical day, according to other recent findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Americans get their news from a combination of on- and offline sources, including national TV, local TV, the internet, local newspapers, radio, and national newspapers. Six in ten Americans (59%) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day, and the internet is now the third most popular news platform, behind local television news and national television news.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project surveyed 2,252 US adults 18 and older between April 29-May 30, 2010.

How iPad Usage is Shaping Up

In the UK, 24% of iPad owners say it’s their primary entertainment device

With iPads now in the hands of millions, studies have begun to examine how the superhyped tablet is fitting into real life, and whether the opportunity for publishers and advertisers is as big as they hoped.

Qualitative research from Ball State University examined how attitudes toward iPads changed after owning one for 24 hours. According to the report, “A Play Date with the iPad,” study participants found the iPad was best for leisure activities. Content creation was too difficult on the device but ideal for content consumption.

iPad users were impressed with applications optimized for the device, especially iBooks, Apple’s ereader app. They emphasized its value as an entertainment device—which meant some were not as interested in owning one because they felt they did not have a need for a new entertainment-based screen. Some productivity-oriented participants considered the tablets inefficient.

In the UK, a survey by copywriting firm Cooper Murphy Webb found that iPad owners had taken to the device in a big way, also for entertainment purposes. More than two in five said they used the tablet at least 10 hours weekly, and almost a quarter said it had become their primary entertainment device, ahead of TV and trailing PCs by just 9 percentage points.

Primary Entertainment Device Among UK iPad Owners, Aug 2010 (% of respondents)

The iPad was considered the No. 1 delivery method for newspapers and magazines, and its popularity for books was even greater: 41% of iPad owners preferred to read on the device, vs. 36% who liked hard copies better. iPads were also the top gaming device for owners of the tablets, beating out consoles by 2 percentage points.

Preferred Delivery Method for Reading Newspapers/Magazines Among UK iPad Owners, Aug 2010 (% of respondents)

Most users didn’t find iPads very portable, though. More than 60% said they rarely or never took their iPad when they left home, while just 5% did so always.

The focus on content consumption rather than creation should be a boon for both marketers and publishers, who are hoping to generate revenues through app sales and ad support. With newspapers, magazines, books and gaming some of the top uses of the iPad thus far, the tablet is building the reputation content owners and advertisers hoped for as an entertainment-oriented device.

What Makes Social Media Trustworthy?

Venues and relationships affect how social media users perceive advice

One thing that makes social media marketing powerful is consumers’ trust in “people like them”—their friends, family and other online peers. Marketers want to tap into that trust through the power of earned media or by engaging in a conversation with consumers, but where social conversations take place has an effect on their perceived trustworthiness as well as who is taking part in them.

A study of frequent social media users by market research firm Invoke Solutions found that the most trusted information was posted by people respondents knew. But blog posts were more likely to be trusted “completely” than posts on Facebook, and trust dropped off sharply when it came to Twitter, even among friends.

Postings by brands or companies were trusted less, but levels were similar whether companies posted to Facebook or blogs. Online community sites did not hold the same trustworthiness as Facebook or blogs, whether postings were made by companies or fellow members, and respondents had an even more skeptical eye for independent bloggers. And across all categories of content creator, Twitter streams were trusted less than other media.

Sources of Information Users Trust on Social Media, June 2010 (% of US frequent social media users)

Asked to rate what was most important to making social sites trustworthy, users’ top concerns were that the dialogue be open to both positive and negative comments, the quality of content and the responsiveness of the content creator. These all point to best practices for companies participating in social media, which must show they are willing to deal with consumer complaints in a constructive way and be authentically involved in the conversation with social site visitors.

Features Important to Inspiring Trust in Social Media Sites, June 2010 (% of US frequent social media users)

Some other seeming signs of authenticity mattered less to users, however, including length of participation and number of participants.

Heavy Twitter Users Bring Social Activity to New Heights

Daily users comment and upload content at least twice as much as average

eMarketer estimates there are 26 million monthly users of Twitter in 2010. That makes users of the microblogging service a relatively small minority of internet users, at 14.6%, and daily users are naturally even fewer in number. But their voice is disproportionately loud.

According to ExactTarget, daily Twitter users are highly active across the social web. They are about three times as likely as internet users on average to upload photos, four times as likely to blog, three times as likely to post ratings and reviews, and nearly six times as likely to upload articles.

Monthly Online Social Activities, April 2010 (% of US daily Twitter users vs. general internet users)

They create, share and comment on content at high rates, making them valuable to marketers for much more than their potential influence on Twitter alone.

“Consumers active on Twitter are clearly the most influential online,” said Morgan Stewart, principal at ExactTarget’s research and education group, in a statement. “What happens on Twitter doesn’t stay on Twitter. While the number of active Twitter users is less than Facebook or email, the concentration of highly engaged and influential content creators is unrivaled—it’s become the gathering place for content creators whose influence spills over into every other corner of the internet.”

ExactTarget also explored Twitter users’ motivations for following companies and brands on the service. In a deeper drilldown into consumer sentiment than previous research has conducted, the April 2010 study supported the general findings that microbloggers have many reasons to follow brands they like. While discounts and sales are toward the top of the list, finding out news and information about the company and its products come out ahead.

Motivation to Follow a Company or Brand on Twitter, April 2010 (% of US Twitter users)

According to 360i, 75% of marketers’ tweets are informational, suggesting brands are responding to what consumers want—though they largely neglect to participate in conversations. Such deeper engagement might help them harness the power of frequent Twitter users across their other social activities as well.

Social Sites Get People Talking, but Marketers Must Earn Trust

Word-of-mouth may not translate to loyalty

Social media is a hot topic in marketing circles, but many consumers are also discussing the trend, which accounts for nearly 23% of time spent online in the US, according to Nielsen.

An April 2010 survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the Online Publishers Association (OPA) found that social media sites were the most talked-about on the web, ahead of portals and top media sites that are members of the OPA in discussions on a wide variety of channels.

Ways Websites Are Discussed, by Website Type, April 2010 (% of US internet users)

All those conversations, whether in person, via email, on the phone or elsewhere on the web, however, don’t make social site visitors loyal—internet users expressed the least loyalty for such properties, compared with portals or OPA member sites. They were also most likely to say social sites were not a very good fit for their information and entertainment needs.

The OPA’s findings are in line with the annual customer satisfaction report from ForeSee Results that found Facebook among the most disliked sites on the web after its many disagreements with its own user community and several privacy debacles.

US Customer Satisfaction with Social Media Sites, Jun 2010 (100-point scale*)

According to the OPA, negative feelings about social sites may also apply to the brands that advertise there. Only 8% of internet users felt social media site advertisers were reputable, compared with a 21% average for content sites. They also felt advertising on social sites was less relevant and the companies that did so were less respected.

The answer for brands is to continue a greater focus on non-advertising marketing activities, engaging on the social media user’s terms. And marketers should remember that while loyalty to individual social properties may be low and site users dissatisfied, the activities that have come to define social media— connecting with friends and family and sharing information and content with a trusted group—will remain important in the lives of millions of internet users and continue to provide avenues for brand engagement.

Twitter Followers Seek Info, Value

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Twitter followers are most interested in receiving information about a brand or extra value, according to a new study from digital marketing firms ExactTarget and CoTweet.

Followers Want Return for Following
“Subscribers, Fans and Followers: Twitter X-Factors” indicates the largest single percentage of Twitter users who follow a company, brand or association on Twitter are motivated to do so by a desire to get updates on future products (38%). Another 32% want to get more information about the activities of a company.

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Following these two informational reasons, the next-highest percentage of Twitter users follows a company to receive discounts and promotions (31%). Thirty percent want to get information on upcoming sales, and 28% want to receive “freebies” such as coupons and samples.

Most of the other reasons for following a company on Twitter have some type of informational aspect (such as learning more about a company, 25%, and learning about company topics, 14%). Viral marketers have some work to do, as only 23% want to show support of a company to others and only 20% want to interact with a company.

The most popular reason to follow a company on Twitter with no direct informational or financial benefit is for fun and entertainment (26%).

Daily Twitter Users Contribute Socially
While a relatively low percentage of Twitter users follow a company to spread its praises, daily Twitter users are highly social in terms of general online information-sharing. For example, 80% of daily Twitter users comment on photos and videos, compared to 38% of other consumers.

exact-twitter-social-contributions-august-2010

Similar wide disparities exist across a range of online social activities, with notably high percentages of daily Twitter users engaging in activities such as uploading photos (76%), posting to forums (75%), blogging (70%), and posting ratings and reviews (61%).

Engage Daily Twitter Users
ExactTarget says the key to successfully integrating Twitter into overall marketing strategy is to not approach this channel as a way to maintain direct relationships with the majority of customers. Instead, ExactTarget advises companies commit to serving customers who do use Twitter on a daily basis. They control and influence the content that others are reading about a brand—which can directly impact the bottom line. And if marketers use Twitter appropriately with this important audience, they can add depth and character to customer relationships.

Twitter Has Higher Global Reach for Women
Twitter has a marginally higher reach among women than men globally, according to a new study from comScore. “How Women Are Shaping the Internet” indicates that despite Twitter’s status as a new technology, which is typically tried earlier by men, on a global level, more women are using Twitter. Among all women age 15 and older, Twitter had a reach of about 7% in April 2010, compared to a reach of roughly 6.5% among men age 15 and older.

In the US, Twitter’s reach has followed a less consistent pattern, with Twitter’s reach among men slightly less than 12% in April 2010, fractionally higher than its reach among women.