International research conducted by UK-based communications firm Pitney Bowes has explored the changing attitudes toward social media over the past two years. The survey revealed that 60 percent of consumers in the UK would abandon Facebook and other social media if mass marketing were to bombard their personal wall—indicating that the relationship between social media, brands and users is a delicate one that needs to be managed sensitively.
This sentiment was echoed within European neighbors, France and Germany, with as many as 80 percent of consumers in France claiming they would leave Facebook if brands began to dominate their online experience. Over three quarters of Germans felt the same way, demonstrating the international resistance to a proliferation of marketing and advertising across social networks.
“Our research also revealed that 40 percent of consumers in the UK have doubled their usage of social media over the past two years,” said Colin Forrest, head of marketing for the UK and Republic of Ireland at Pitney Bowes, in a news release. “This illustrates how social media is an increasingly powerful communication tool, which must be utilized carefully by businesses in order to engage consumers.
“It is important that brands are savvy when it comes to social media and that they avoid overstepping the mark,” he said. “Social media play a hugely important role in the whole communications mix, so brands must ensure they step up and embrace the multitude of opportunities it offers them. In essence, getting the best out of traditional and social channels as a means to meet clients’ needs should be the key drivers when choosing the appropriate channel.
“In addition, there is no doubt that the explosion of smartphone usage created a fantastic digital communications channel for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), with one important caveat—it must function as an integral part of business strategy, both as a means of drawing in new customers and also as a way of obtaining first-hand details of existing clients’ experiences to help them promote their business and their brand.”
It is important that businesses apply a targeted approach that appears personalized to their customer. This approach is particular valuable for SMBs, as it provides a mouthpiece for corporate opinions and creates the appropriate environment for a dialogue with customers. With increasing customer autonomy and competition in the marketplace, it is just as important for SMBs as it is for big businesses to accept that communication is no longer a one-way street. Once these foundations are established, the potential benefits sought from social media are limitless.
In light of this research revealing that consumers in Europe would be turned off by excessive brand messaging, Pitney Bowes advises businesses to be cautious. Social media platforms face the risk of alienating existing users due to the invasion of commercial advertising and mass marketing. Although commercial advertising can generate short-term capital, the long-term future of social platforms relies heavily upon the ‘online community.’ Therefore, a targeted and sensitive approach should be applied where necessary.
The growth of mobile devices create ease for the digital communications channel to work very well for SMBs—but they must place this as part of the strategy they have for their business and use it to draw new customers and ask existing customers to speak about their experiences to help them promote their business and brand.
Edited by Richard Carufel