It’s a hackneyed expression to say that one size doesn’t fit all with social media, but I just ran a study of 1,000 consumers which suggests that brands need to hone their tailored approach right down to a granular level. Not just gender (everyone knows women are far more engaged on social channels – LinkedIn aside, apparently – than men), but they should also consider age, demographic and even the level of education among their audience, which could of course be quite wide-ranging.
I was given a free trial on the new self-service online survey provider Usurv and got my results within three hours, and the stats were fascinating.
Gender and social media
The study unveiled that women are twice as likely as men to refer to their social network contacts, especially Facebook friends, when making purchasing decisions. The recent comScore/Facebook The Power of Like Europe report reaffirmed that women are far more active on Facebook, but my study found that men and women tend to get their purchase decision-making information from different sources.
After online publications, advice and recommendations from Facebook friends is the second most influential factor in the purchasing decision making process, with women (45.5 per cent) more likely (28.5 per cent) than men to refer to friends for consumer advice.
Men (24 per cent) are more likely to refer to YouTube than women (15 per cent). Men (46 per cent) are also more likely to refer to online publications (41 per cent) to get the information they need. This indicates that brands that target men will need to focus on search engine optimisation (SEO), great online content and PR to get their message to a male audience.
Interestingly, neither gender – especially as they aged – was particularly drawn by brand freebies or incentives. Brands whose audience is specifically gender-oriented should tailor their approach accordingly. I’ve seen first-hand how, for the same brand, engagement rates on Facebook can differ wildly between genders. (Continues after graphic…)
Sources for decision making among consumers (Planet Content/Usurv, July 2012)
Brands’ online content
A major positive for brands is that two-thirds (65 per cent) of consumers said they find brands’ current online content either “useful” or “very useful”.
The influence of independent bloggers in the decision making process may need to be reassessed with just over one in ten (13 per cent) consumers referring to independent blogs. However, this figure is twice that refer to brands’ own blogs for advice in the purchasing process (6.5 per cent).
Interestingly, while consumers don’t tend to read company blogs, 14 per cent of consumers will actually refer to brands’ own Facebook pages. This highlights the importance of consumer-facing brands in particular getting their Facebook strategies right. This reference to brands’ own Facebook properties is highest among 18-29 year olds (27 per cent).
The influence of social networks
Referrals to friends on Facebook decreases as education levels improve. 37 per cent of high school-level educated consumers will refer to Facebook friends for consumer advice, a figure which drops to 27 per cent for degree level and 24.5 per cent for those with higher qualifications. Similarly, referrals to friends decrease as income increases. While brands might not have access to a complete data spec on their audience’s education, they should think about a broad range of Facebook content to please all parties.
What consumers want from brands online
I mentioned that freebies and giveaways were not the key draw for most consumers when it came to making purchasing decisions. A third (32 per cent) instead wants user-generated content – such as reviews or comments – plus factual material (32 per cent).
For brands this means the old adage about transparency on social media becomes even more relevant. They must be open and enable people to comment on their products, engage with them and take on board feedback to make improvements. The conversation is happening whether brands like it or not, so brands need to get involved. Many are, but too many are stuck in the ostrich mindset.
There is more info on a post I wrote on the survey for Brand Republic’s Wallblog, but in short, the key learnings for brands are:
- Tailor your online content, digital and social media strategy according to demographic (gender, age, education etc.) and platform. The same tactic won’t please all the people all the time
- Bloggers are important but don’t overplay it. They’re great for links and reviews but online magazines are still way more influential so utilise old school PR outreach
- Brands’ own blogs are failing to draw in the punters. Why? Are they too sales-oriented? Is there a trust issue? Is the content up to scratch and how’s your outreach strategy performing? These are questions brands should ask
- People want video. Make some!
- Gimmicks and giveaways don’t wash. People want informative content and they want the opportunity to talk about brands and with brands