New research shows Americans hate social media promotions

Social media is hot and companies are all trying to find ways to leverage this captive audience, but according to new research from ExactTarget, social media promotion is doomed from the start because Americans hate it.

In a recent blog post on Convince & Convert from social media guru Jay Baer, he highlights a great point, “Your company needs to be human because your competing with humans.”

As brands are fighting to find the brass ring method of using social media, it could be just this simple: humanize your brand.

I think about it in terms of sales people. People don’t like “sales” people, but the most successful sales people are people that we like. We want to buy things from people that we like, not people that are pushy and trying to get us to buy something. This directly correlates into how brands are behaving on social media. Beware, consumers are pushing back and basically telling brands to back off their social media.

In ExactTarget’s 2012 Channel Preference Study (download it here for free), 1,500 Americans ages 15 and older were asked about their usage of email, social media and text messaging. Key lesson found in the report, “…just because consumers embrace a channel for personal communications doesn’t mean that they want to receive direct marketing messages from your brand via that channel.”

Google_facebook_twitter_logo-300x276According to the study, 1 percent of respondents selected Twitter and only 4 percent selected Facebook as the preferred channel for permission-based promotional messages overall. The numbers rise slightly when you look at the younger generations, but not nearly as much as one might expect. Respondents were even more critical of promotions on the business social media network, LinkedIn, with zero percent selecting the platform as its preferred communications method.  Even text messaging beat out social media with 5 percent of respondents selecting this method of communication. 

So I am sure you are now wondering how Pinterest falls into all of this. As the fastest growing, independent social network with more than 17 million registered accounts as of March 2012 according to ComScore, every communicator is trying to figure out how it plays a role in our efforts. The report sums this up perfectly: “The lesson of Pinterest for marketers is right there in its name – interest.” In other words, stay away from using this platform for promotions too. Instead, use this platform (only when it makes sense to) for sharing and inspiring others to share great content. 

The good news is, while consumers are not responding to promotions via social media, they are not opposed to receiving it directly through email. In fact, the results show that the majority of Americans prefer to receive promotional materials from companies via email (77 percent). Email was reported to be used most often with 91 percent of respondents reporting daily use.  These promotions are also the most likely to result in a purchase, with 66 percent overall reporting that an email promotion resulted in a purchase.

In conclusion, businesses should leverage the power of social media as a way to humanize their brands and connect one-on-one with consumers. It should not be used as another sales channel. Give the people their social media back, your sales tactics are not welcome. 

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— Deana Goodrich is a senior account executive at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.