If you believed the hype, social media was destined to knock traditional media off its perch and marketers have invested heavily in it in recent years. But Kiwis’ engagement with brands and companies on social media is on the slide, with a ColmarBrunton survey on the social media habits of New Zealanders showing the number of Kiwis who follow brands on social media dropping from 41 percent in 2013 to 27 percent this year.
Colmar Brunton chief executive Jacqueline Ireland says while the number of Kiwi social media users continues to increase (68 percent of New Zealanders access at least one social media site per day, up from 63 percent last year) they are predominantly using it to stay in touch with friends and family rather than brands (Elle Hunt's tweet seems to sum up the attitude towards brands of social media).
“The outtake from this is that brands have not yet learned the rules of engagement on social media and they need to work harder and smarter to be noticed,” Ireland says.
Combine this decline with recent changes to Facebook's algorithm that have seen the reach of brand posts decline markedly because it's not what the users want to see in their newsfeed and it all looks pretty grim. Judging by the concern of brands who spent years and plenty of cash building up their fans, only to have many of them disappear when these changes were made, marketers sometimes tend to forget that these social networks are not charities and, like any media property, they are aiming to profit from their huge audiences. Likes or retweets may have been enough in the past, but marketers are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the ROI.
Social media has become an important customer service tool for some brands, but Ireland says the proliferation of advertisements is an example of how some brands and companies are getting it wrong on social media.
“It is seen as spamming or gate-crashing and is a big turn off. In consumers’ minds brands need to earn the right to engage and be engaged with on social media.”
Ireland says the biggest drop off in those engaging with brands on social media comes in the 18-29 age group, down from 59 percent in 2013 to 33 percent this year, a concerning drop given the importance of Gen Y consumers as a target market.
Despite the belief from some marketers that consumers might want to 'join the conversation', the main reasons Kiwis give for following a brand or company on social media are for sales and discounts (67 percent), contests and giveaways (65 percent) and useful information (63 percent).
“Consumers need to see what’s in it for them. But companies need to be careful. While discounts have great appeal, they tend to make the relationship with a brand more transactional and do not deliver the level of engagement and loyalty brands are seeking through social media.”
Other significant findings from the Colmar Brunton social media survey saw newcomer Snapchat top the net momentum chart (i.e. of social media users 60 percent used Snapchat more often now than six months ago while 17 percent use it less often, resulting in a net momentum of 43).
Visual social media channels such as Instagram (net momentum 22) and Pinterest (net momentum 21) were next in line and continued their rapid rise, which appears to reflect a trend of images being more engaging for social media users than text.
The biggest increase in social media use is by 30-39 year olds (up to 78 percent from 67 percent last year), while 18-29 year olds continue to have the highest social media usage with 91 percent using social media at least once a day.
The results come from a survey of 1015 New Zealanders with a margin of error of + or – 3 percent.