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Social media advertising effectiveness ‘a myth’

‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half’ – is a well-known quote attributed to US department store owner John Wannamaker. A survey by Gallup in the US seems to indicate that in the contemporary world, the money spent on social media would definitely be in the half that is wasted!

(Source: Gallup/WSJ)

In a report pointedly tilted ‘The Myth of Social Media’ based on a US survey of 18,000 people (aka consumers), Gallup found that the breathless, bullying hype by marketing gurus and media buyers promoting social media as an essential advertising medium is not backed by consumer attitudes.

The Gallup survey has effectively outed social media as marketing communications’ emperor with no clothes.

Of 18,000 surveyed by Gallup, almost two-thirds (62 percent), said Facebook, Twitter and other social media had no influence whatsoever on their product purchasing decisions.

Just five percent – one in 20 – said that social media had ‘a great deal of influence’ on what they bought, and less than a third (30 percent) said it had ‘some influence’.

(Source: Gallup/WSJ)
(Source: Gallup/WSJ)

While marketers desperately attempt to re-shape social media into advertising media, the actual users are stubbornly resistant, with 94 percent of Facebook, etc, users saying they use it primarily as a networking tool to keep in touch with family and friends. (Perhaps that’s why the call it social media!)

Only 29 percent ever use social media to find product reviews or follow trends.

The older a social media user is, the less likely they are to have their purchasing decisions impacted by social media. Three-quarters of pre-Baby Boomers say social media has no impact on their buying decisions compared to 48 percent of Millennials.

‘These channels do not motivate prospective customers to consider trying a brand or recommending a brand to others,’ says the report. ‘Therefore, if companies want to acquire new customers, their best bet is to engage their existing customers and inspire them to advocate on their behalf.

‘Customer engagement drives social engagement — the degree to which consumers will work for or against an organisation within their social networks — not the other way around.’

Marketing managers who use measures such as the number of Likes, Fans and Followers of their social media sites as an indication of marketing communications effectiveness are fooling themselves – or if not their employers and colleagues.

Of the consumers who reported ‘liking’ or following a company, 34 percent still said that social media had no influence on their purchasing behavior, while 53 percent said they had only some influence.

‘When compared with more traditional forms of social networking [such as engaging in conversation], social media initiatives may actually be the least effective method for influencing consumers’ buying decisions,’ the report said.

‘Consumers are much more likely to turn to friends, family members, and experts [in the photo industry this would be knowledgeable store staff and enthusiast or professional photography magazines and websites] when seeking advice about companies, brands, products, or services.

‘Company-sponsored Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have almost no persuasive power.’

For the retail industry, the Gallup research shows that 56 percent of shoppers base their purchasing decisions on in-store displays and that just 7 percent base their decisions on social media content. – That is, a retail merchandiser is about eight times more effective than a social media team!

Click here to access the report.

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