Social Media: Small Businesses and Customers Don’t Connect

Social media: contrasting the marketing and consumer perspectives - Pitney Bowes SoftwareA new survey has found that small businesses plan on spending nearly half of their marketing budgets on social media in 2013.

The research by Pitney Bowes Software has also discovered that whilst social media will account for almost half of UK firms’ marketing strategies, just 26% of consumers actually use social media channels to connect with businesses.

The most interesting finding from the report is that if companies annoy or upset their audience then 65% of brand-watching consumers will abandon them.

The research, conducted across Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the USA, found that the social media landscape was less mature in Europe and slightly better developed in Australia and the US; The main difference being that European enthusiasm for business social media was let down by a lack of measurement of the success of social media marketing strategies.

Another finding is that brands’ use of social channels still tends to be one way with social still being regarded as more of a "broadcast" channel with a low take-up from consumers in terms of interacting with businesses.

Rather than take a brand’s word, consumers are still relying upon peer recommendations and it is being suggested in the white paper that businesses spend more of the energy they’ve dedicated in their initial enthusiasm toward studying customers’ wants & needs.

Misaligned Social Media Channels

When it comes down to choosing a social media channel many small businesses are not sure which works best for them but the research shows that Facebook is a good choice.

84% of marketers use Facebook for their business and this aligned with consumers (93%) for whom Facebook was their number one channel.

However, after that the next most popular social media channels for marketing decision-makers are Twitter (57%) and Google+ (51%). Customer adoption of the marketers’ #2 and #3 choices is at just 31% and 22% respectively.

53% of consumers used YouTube, making it the number 2 channel choice for them, but marketing departments placed it only at #5 on their list.

Mass Marketing vs Personal Tactics

Further misalignments are seen in Corporate Social Responsibility messages used by 21% of marketers but found useful by just 12% of consumers. Similarly, whilst 24% of broadcasters think a newsletter will be useful only 9% of the audience do.

On a more positive note, the broadcast mode of many marketers is being replaced with a more personal approach, according to the research, as the public seem to be increasingly marketing-averse.

The whitepaper also found that certain marketing strategies work better than others in terms of the response of their audience: Discounts and money-saving vouchers, new product announcements, forthcoming events & sales all saw the best customer responses. Conversely these approaches are all at the bottom of the list of marketers’ tactics.

More worryingly though is that nearly a third (29%) of consumers found that marketing messages were not useful at all.

Kieran Kilmartin, the Marketing Director, EMEA & India, of Pitney Bowes Software said of the findings:

"This research is fascinating because it reveals a clear disconnect between the effort marketers are putting into social media and the desire among consumers to engage,"

"Even well-intentioned marketers that persist with old-school ‘broadcast’ marketing models risk inadvertently turning potential brand ambassadors off, or at worst, triggering them to disengage completely and ultimately become a brand blocker."

To read the full whitepaper fill in your details here.

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