Consumers Embrace Social Media for Brand Feedback

Many social network users are using channels such as Twitter and Facebook to discuss shopping decisions and experiences with their peers. Although often this means they are using social networks as another channel to hunt down the best deals, consumers are also turning to those sites to provide feedback about their experiences with brands.

ROI Research conducted a study that asked social network users why they discuss products and services on social network sites. The majority of respondents said that when discussing products and services, they are comparing prices and talking about sales and specials with their social network friends and followers. Fifty-three percent of the surveyed social network users said they provide feedback to the brand or retailer via social network sites—and 47% said they express disappointment with the brand when they see fit.

The ROI Research study points out that consumers voice complaints about certain verticals more so than others. Survey respondents listed household products, telecommunications and healthcare and pharma as top categories for expressing dissatisfaction on a social network. Sports-related brands, magazines and newspapers, and alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, received low levels of complaints. The travel industry ranked fairly low on the list—which may come as a surprise given the resources that many travel companies have devoted to responding to consumer feedback on Twitter.

A MarketTools survey focusing on customer satisfaction with US airline carriers indicates that although US travelers may be embracing social networks to express feedback more frequently than in the past, social media as a feedback or customer service channel is still nascent.

Many travelers are using social networks to let their friends and followers in on their travel woes. In fact, the MarketTools survey indicates one out of 10 US travelers has used social media to complain about an airline. Because the complaints are undirected though, they often go unanswered. The survey shows that only one out of four consumers who complained via social media got a response back from an airline.

Although travelers are voicing dissatisfaction to their friends via social media, few travelers actually use sites such as Twitter and Facebook to give direct negative feedback to airlines. Only 2% of travelers who had given feedback or complaints about airline service in the past year said they had done so via social media. Most travelers reached out to the airline customer service department through the website, email or phone.

Both studies demonstrate that while collecting and responding to feedback over social networks may be a new phenomenon for brands, there is room for growth. Listening and responding to complaints on social media also offers brands a chance to connect with customers in an additional channel, and to potentially increase customer satisfaction.

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Consumers More Likely to Express Satisfaction via SocNet


 Consumers More Likely to Express Satisfaction via SocNetDespite common industry wisdom that consumers are much more likely to publicize negative experiences, consumers express satisfaction on social networks more frequently than disappointment, according to an April 2011 study from ROI Research and Performics. Data from “S-Net: A Study in Social Media Usage and Behavior” indicates in the case of restaurants, 60% of online consumers use social networking sites to express satisfaction about a purchase, brand or retailer.

This makes restaurants the vertical most likely to receive good publicity via social network. Other verticals with 50% or more of online consumers saying they use social networks to express satisfaction are food brands and household products (53% each) and telecommunications (50%).

 Consumers More Likely to Express Satisfaction via SocNetIn addition to being the vertical fourth-most-likely to receive positive social network comments from consumers, household products are also most likely to receive negative social network comments. However, only 29% of online consumers say they use social networks to express disappointment in household products.

Interestingly, both the telecommunications (28%) and restaurant (25%) verticals are also among the most likely to receive disappointing social network comments from consumers.

 Consumers More Likely to Express Satisfaction via SocNetIn terms of offers to win online points that can be redeemed for products or prizes via social networks, consumer interest currently appears tepid. No vertical has more than 50% of online consumers expressing interest in winning points via social network. Education (47%), sports-related (44%) and electronics (43%) are the leading verticals in this area.

 Consumers More Likely to Express Satisfaction via SocNetWhen it comes to printable coupons obtained from social networks, online consumers show a bit more interest. Fifty-six percent are interested in receiving printable coupons from educational brands, while 52% are interested in receiving printable coupons from sports-related brands. Interest in printable coupons from brands in the restaurant (49%), auto, electronics and food (48% for each vertical) verticals was also higher than interest in points from any vertical.

Other study results show that a combined 49% of online consumers are extremely (5%), very (10%) or somewhat (34%) likely to post interesting or relevant content about a product/service, company or brand such as sale announcements, coupons, new product announcements, interesting videos, etc. on social networking sites.

Interestingly, a combined 60% of online consumers are extremely (5%), very (13%) or somewhat (42%) likely to take action when a friend posts this type of social network content.

About the Data: In April 2011, ROI Research and Performics conducted an online survey of 2,997 consumers age 13 and older who access at least one social network regularly.

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Why Do Affluent Consumers Connect with Brands on Social Networks?


Luxury marketers take note, according to a February 2011 Affluence Collaborative survey, wealthy internet users connect with brands on social networks for significantly different reasons than the general population. The social networks they use to do so are different, too.

Among the general population, the main reason cited for connecting with brands on social networks was to receive deals and discounts. This result from the Affluence Collaborative survey backs up earlier research from several sources on why consumers follow brands on social sites.

But according to Affluence Collaborative, this was a much lower priority for the wealthy. Their top reasons for following brands were due to a preexisting affinity for and a desire to be kept informed about the brand. The least-cited reason mentioned by all groups surveyed was to be entertained, suggesting that social media marketers still need to provide fans with value, even if it isn’t directly in the form of a coupon or sale.

These findings coincide with earlier research from ExactTarget, which showed that a huge component of liking a brand on Facebook was due not just to an affinity, but as a means of self-expression for others to see. This promotional desire was more pronounced in Facebook users than Twitter followers or email subscribers. Affluents then, in their “love of the brands” they connect with, are largely acting as brand ambassadors.

On the surface, a November 2010 L2 Think Tank survey might appear to contradict these findings. Affluent members of Gen Y (ages 19 to 33) cited promotions and offers as the main reason for engaging with brands on social media. Women were more likely than men to engage with brands in general and to want to receive offers. However, the survey included those who were “projected to earn $100,000 in the next two years”—meaning the respondents were more aspiring than actually affluent. The second biggest motivator was still an affinity for the brand.

Data from the Affluence Collaborative study also reveals that the affluent aren’t using the same social networks as the general population. Facebook was the No. 1 social network used by all groups surveyed, but LinkedIn and Twitter attracted affluent internet users at nearly double the rate of the general population.

Any marketer targeting affluent consumers needs to know not only where to reach that audience, but what appeals to them. For wealthy internet users, connecting with a brand is largely about the brand itself, not gimmicks and offers. Affluents need to see a consistent message that makes following a brand meaningful for self-expression, just like when buying a brand in real life. Watering down the brand in order to gain a large social following may drive away the very people trying to be reached.

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Australian consumers behind on web travel fees


web travel fees thumb Australian consumers behind on web travel feesWith the Aussie dollar leading the greenback, it’s no surprise the US has become a destination of choice for travel-loving Australians.

But it seems Australia is lagging behind the US when it comes to booking holidays over the internet and paying fees and charges for the service.

A major online travel agency says Australia is one of the few countries in the world where booking fees are still a feature of the online travel market.

But pressure is growing for Aussie sites to cut booking fees, as the sector competes to stay ahead of airlines and hotel chains who are increasingly seeking to win consumers over the internet.

‘Surprisingly, Australia is one of the rare countries in the world that charges booking fees for online travel transactions,’ Expedia Australia and New Zealand general manager Nicholas Chu said.

‘We don’t charge booking fees in the US anymore, most of the countries in Europe don’t charge booking fees.’ cut booking fees 18 months ago in response to market demand, Mr Chu said, although it was not the first in the US to do so.

Research conducted by Expedia earlier this year found there is nearly universal hatred among Australian consumers – 75 per cent of us – for the booking fees.

‘In the US, which is a much more mature online travel market, everyone is aware of fees, and I can tell you that no one wants to pay fees,’ Mr Chu said.

‘Why would you pay an extra $50 for nothing, while if you book directly with the carrier you won’t have to pay the fee.’

Mr Chu’s comments come in the wake of action by the consumer watchdog against a group of airlines who failed to display airfares inclusive of all fees and charges.

The group of eight carriers, including Tiger Airways, Air Asia X, and Qantas subsidiary Jetstar, reached a deal with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last week.

But laws that prevent component pricing by airlines don’t apply to booking fees charged by online travel websites.

According to the ACCC that’s because travel sites charge fees across an entire booking, rather than per flight.

In Australia, online travel sites have captured about 20 to 30 per cent of the market, compared with 50 per cent penetration in the US.

Margins for online retailers are being squeezed as airlines and hotel chains compete by offering bookings directly from their websites.

Mr Chu said the industry must respond with greater transparency, cut fees and charges and focus on adding value for the customer.

‘What was quite interesting was that actually when people were aware of fees they were quite angry about those,’ Mr Chu said.

‘Why would they have to pay for something that they are doing by themselves?’

Mr Chu said fees contributed a small portion of revenue and Expedia had ‘been able to compensate for that with the increased volume’.

‘The whole idea is to offer consumers added value that they won’t get from the supplier direct.’

‘We need to be transparent, but we also need to bring something, we need to add value for consumers.’

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Trends in Consumers’ Time Spent with Media


There are only so many hours per day that consumers can spend watching TV, reading newspapers and surfing the internet. But as marketers may suspect, the time devoted to media is undergoing some not-so-subtle changes.

eMarketer recently conducted a meta-analysis of data from dozens of research firms using a variety of methodologies. The result is a series of estimates of how much time consumers spend with all major media, regardless of multitasking or simultaneous usage, from 2008 to 2010. The estimates apply to average media usage of the general public, not solely to the users of each medium.

The average time spent with all major media combined increased from about 10.6 hours in 2008 to 11 hours in 2010, according to eMarketer. TV and video (not including online video) captured the lion’s share of all media time, about 40% each year. The internet’s share of media time increased over the same period, from 21.5% to 23.5%, as did mobile’s share, from 5% to 7.5%. The share of time spent with magazines and newspapers fluctuated between 10% and 7.5%, while radio and all other media—video games, movies in theaters and outdoor media—declined.

To account for multitasking, an hour spent watching TV and surfing the internet was counted as 1 hour for TV plus 1 hour for internet use. Also, use of each medium is discrete: Time spent listening to the radio does not include streaming stations from the internet, for example.

In 2010, consumers spent an average of 4 hours and 24 minutes each day watching TV and video, while being online for 2 hours and 35 minutes. Mobile devices received an average of 50 minutes’ worth of attention every day—the same amount of time allotted to newspapers and magazines combined. eMarketer expects that time spent with mobile devices will continue to increase, most likely taking time away from print media.

In fact, time spent with mobile devices is rising faster than all other media. In 2010, consumers spent 28.2% more time with mobile devices, which covers all mobile activities on all mobile devices. That gain was even higher than the 21.9% growth in 2009. Time spent on the internet showed moderate but steady gains, at more than 6% each year since 2008. All other major media posted declines: TV and video lost 1.1% in 2010, while magazines and newspapers lost 9.1% each. However, as consumers continue to consume more media every day, those losses are not immediately significant.

Marketers need to pay attention to these trends as they project budgets and develop marketing strategies for the coming year—and years. Mobile devices will claim more and more media time per day, while TV, print and radio will slowly lose ground to digital media. Those trends have been most apparent with print media in recent years, but are now beginning to show up in TV and radio usage as well.

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Consumers Believe in Positive Word-of-Mouth


Many marketers still struggle with the loss of control over their brand that comes with the ability of consumers to discuss them—and have those messages widely disseminated—across social media. But most brand-related chatter, both online and offline, is positive. And positive buzz carries more weight with consumers, according to research from Keller Fay Group.

In a study of hundreds of thousands of conversations, the firm found about two-thirds of word-of-mouth brand references were “mostly positive.” Those can be powerful.

Two-thirds of study respondents thought positive word-of-mouth was credible, compared with fewer than half who believed negative buzz. Positive information was also more likely to be passed on to others, more than twice as likely to get people to look for more information, and had nearly four times the chance of pushing consumers to make a purchase.

Overall, word-of-mouth is generally positive, but some industries do get better buzz than others. Children’s products and food brands tended to get the most positive mentions, while net advocacy on behalf of companies in the telecommunications, financial services and healthcare industries was lowest. But even for those brands, the majority of word-of-mouth was still upbeat.

The Keller Fay research supports findings by women-focused marketing and communications firm Harbinger, which reported a greater motivation to share good brand experiences than bad ones among female internet users in North America. Consumers trying to give others advice seem to be more interested in directing friends and family toward brands they like than away from brands they have had a problem with.

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