helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By Amy Kean, IAB,

Thank heavens for the research release today, from YouTube, which confirms a sneaking suspicion that I – and the IAB Social Media Council – have had for a while.  If a brand enters social media… they should tell the world why they’re there in the first place.

That’s obvious, you might say. Simple common sense, some may tweet. Absolutely – I don’t think anyone actually ever claimed that social media was a form of rocket science – but it still doesn’t happen that often.  And that’s because there exists an assumption that hasn’t yet been disproved (until today) that just entering into a conversation is enough, that a ‘like’ or retweet is unequivocally fabulous, and that blogger coverage, without a rationale for why you’ve received it, is sufficient.

This research from YouTube (supported by the IAB) highlights the real need for harder messaging in social media content and advertising, showing that a really quite remarkable 60% of people are not yet existing customers of brands they share or ‘like’.  They just like them. Now I’m no Rain Man, but that’s a big number.

Are consumers fickle?

The study investigated the ways in which 3000 consumers across the UK, France and Germany use YouTube and Facebook and how they feel about branded content and advertising on each. And consumers are fickle.  Many people are sharing content from competing brands – such as Pepsi and Coke – on these sites at the same time, with 41% of people ‘liking’ competitor brands on Facebook, and 35% sharing content created by competing brands on YouTube. And whilst the majority of people (75%)  who share content or ‘like’ a brand on either of these sites feel more positive about the brand afterwards, around a quarter of people (25%)  who feel ‘no different’ as a result.

We talk a great deal about how difficult it is for social media to drive sales – buzz, sentiment, and long-term engagement ARE hard to link with concrete ROI. But if that’s what brands need in order to invest more in social media then we should be taking steps to add more concrete calls-to-action in our content, to make measurement easier. Or at the very least making it clear what the real purpose of our social media activity is.

Why do people visit branded pages in the first place?

And in addition, whilst as marketers we may want to have a ‘conversation’ and be ‘human’ with consumers (slightly overused words in my opinion), this research proves that may not always be what consumers want.

A third of people visited brand pages on YouTube and Facebook to get more product information. On YouTube, 30% of respondents went to brand pages to look at TV ads, 22% wanted to get to know the company better and 20% visited to hear about or receive special offers. On Facebook, some 28% of consumers visit brand pages to hear about or receive special offers, 23% to share opinions and experiences with other people, followed by 23% who wanted to get to know the company better.

The survey found that users who visit YouTube or Facebook brand pages specifically looking for product information are 50% more likely to share that information with their friends and family. So the power of advocacy is evident.

Why a call-to-action is important

But the research has highlighted a big challenge for brands, in relation to the crowded nature of social media and that people who engage with brands on social media aren’t always loyal customers. When it comes to the more ‘fickle’ consumer, you could argue that developing a stronger call to action related to the initial objective is essential. And with over a quarter (28%) of people visiting brand pages on Facebook to receive special offers, and a fifth (20%) of people visiting brand pages on YouTube for the same reason, promotional incentives may often be what sets a brand apart from the competition.

So in short – it’s ok to be honest about the fact that you want  to sell something, or launch a new product, or get people to register on your site, or use your own presence on a social networking site just as a customer service tool and nothing else, as long as that is abundantly clear.  As outlined in the IAB Social Media Measurement Framework, your clear objectives and KPIs – as set out at the beginning of your social media activity – will help you define which ‘hard message’ it is you include within your social activity.

Often ‘social media’ can be an unhelpful term, because too often it is used in a general sense to describe very different sites, with unique traits and specific motivations for usage. I feel that moving forward, it’s the real role of the IAB to help communicate these differences so that we move even further away from the testing stage, as well as emphasise the importance of objectives. Supporting this research is just one small step of many we are yet to take in this area, but the IAB Social Media Council are determined to nail it.

See below for the full presentation (which includes a whole host of other great stuff I didn’t even have space to mention here).

Henry Elliss, Tamar
October 27, 2010

Superb research, guys – I’m glad it’s now online so we can share this with people, I think there are some brilliant stats and take-home messages in here.


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