Brands are struggling to engage consumers online and should reassess their strategies if they want to successfully target consumers through social media, according to findings in a recent survey of global digital attitudes and behaviors by research agency Kantar TNS.
More than a third of global Internet users — 34 percent — said they feel “constantly followed” by brand advertising online, and 26 percent said they now “actively ignore” branded social content. In the U.S. the figures were more stark, with 39 percent of Internet users claiming they now actively ignore branded social posts or content.
The figures seem to worsen with older age groups: 37 percent of Internet users between the ages of 35 and 44 said they “completely object” to the idea of brands tracking their online behaviors, and more than half — 51 percent — of Internet users between the ages of 55 and 65 said they actively ignore content from brands. About one in five — 20 percent — of global Internet users said they now watch user-generated content online more often than branded or professionally-produced content, and the same number between the ages of 16 and 34 admitted to using ad blockers.
On the other hand, the Kantar TNS study found that when it comes to Facebook, most Internet users seem receptive to branded content. Globally, 79 percent of respondents said they read brand posts on Facebook, and 75 percent said they watch branded video content regularly on the social site (oddly, Colombia was the country that ranked highest in both categories, with 95 percent and 93 percent of Colombian respondents reporting that they engage in this behavior, respectively). Globally, 76 percent admitted to liking or posting comments on Facebook brand pages.
Overall, 38 percent of worldwide respondents said they’re open to reading or watching brand content on social media, and the same percentage said they’re amenable to sharing information if some kind of reward is offered, though 32 percent said they believe brands present different levels of customer service online and offline. Countries with the highest percentage of respondents who claimed to enjoy reading or watching online brand content included Brazil, India, Mongolia and Saudi Arabia. Skepticism of brand content was highest in Scandinavian nations, with 57 percent of respondents in both Sweden and Denmark claiming that they actively ignore branded content.
The study also suggested that influencer activation might go a long way in swaying consumers’ trust. Globally, 40 percent of 16–24 year-olds surveyed claimed to trust what others said online regarding brands more than “official” sources such as advertising.
The popularity of Instagram and Snapchat has also surged in recent years, according to the study, with almost half — 43 percent — of U.S Internet users now using photo-sharing service Instagram (compared to only 19 percent in 2014) and about the same number globally (42 percent). More than a third — 34 percent — of U.S Internet users now use messaging app Snapchat (compared to only 29 percent in 2014) and almost a quarter globally (23 percent) claimed to use this app. Approximately half of Snapchat’s monthly users are between the ages of 16 and 24, and 15 percent of U.S. Internet users ages 55-65 said they now use Instagram, according to the study.
As a result of its findings, Kantar TNS’ Connected Life study underscored three suggestions for brands to better engage with consumers online: find out what motivates consumers; partner with influencers; and create more engaging content that can be used across multiple channels.
Kantar TNS’ Connected Life study surveyed more than 70,000 consumers ages 16 and up across 57 countries between June and September.
Kantar is a subsidiary of WPP.