Having Your Cake And Eating It

Commerical-Messages-SurveyA recent survey by GI Insight shines a light on our love-hate relationship with commercial messages within social media platforms.

An overwhelming 92% of British consumers surveyed stated their wish to “keep advertising very separate from real chat”, while 82% said that they use social media a lot but don’t want it invaded by advertising or commercial messages. This aversion to commercial practices is even stronger amongst young people with 88% of 18-24 year olds being opposed to advertising intrusions.

But these same consumers are also quite happy to interact with brands and companies while using social networks with 64% saying they have “liked or friended brand pages.”

What are we to make of these rather contradictory statistics? This disconnect is not new. Most consumers reject the idea of TV advertising interrupting their viewing while also claiming to enjoy watching some of the ads. It’s a very natural response; given a choice we’d all choose to have our cake and eat it.

The web doesn’t work that way though. The only economically-viable way to enjoy the many wonders of the Internet is to accept that someone has to pay for it, and this normally means agreeing to consume advertising messages.

What should companies do in the face of these new findings? A good place to start is to recognise that there’s a very fine line between between a helpful, friendly connection on the social web and a stalking, hard-selling PITA who deserves to be unfriended:

  1. Keep your commercial messages to a minimum, using them only when you have a really strong offer or deal that consumers would hate to miss out on.
  2. When advertising online, make sure it’s clear what is a commercial message and what isn’t. Disguising your commercial materials as social chat or reviews is an absolute no-go and any form of hard-sell will be rejected by many.
  3. Don’t contact customers or prospects directly through social media channels (86% of consumers say they would be “seriously put off a brand” if this happened to them) but invite them to contact you if your offer is strong enough to warrant it.

To read more, download the full report from GI Insight from this link (.pdf).