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Most consumers don't want to be bothered on social networks: TNS Digital Life study

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | November 11, 2011
The study reveals that 'digital waste' is polluting the online world because brands often fail to listen to what people want.

TNS, a Kantar company and part of WPP, has released the findings of its Digital Life study. The findings are a comprehensive view of how more than 72,000 consumers in 60 countries behave online, and why they do what they do. The study asked consumers around the world whether they actually want to engage with brands on social networking websites, either to find out more, or to make a purchase.

Firstly, TNS's research reveals that if the efforts taken by brands online are not carefully targeted, they are wasted on 49 per cent of Indian consumers as these consumers don't want to be bothered on social networks.

Another intriguing finding is that 57 per cent of social network users in developed markets do not want to engage with brands via social media. The figure is 60 per cent in the US, and 61 per cent in the UK. Due to this, digital strategies are generating copious amounts of 'digital waste'.

Shailendra Gupta, associate vice-president, TNS India, explains, "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why. Many brands have recognised the vast potential audiences available to them on social networks; however, they fail to understand that these spaces belong to the consumer, and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

The study also shows that 47 per cent of global digital consumers now comment about brands online. This figure is as high as 63 per cent in the case of Indian consumers. The result is 'noise' that pollutes the digital world, and makes it harder for brands to be heard, thus presenting a challenge for businesses trying to enter into a dialogue with consumers online. 

"Winning and keeping customers is harder than ever," says Matthew Froggatt, chief development officer, TNS, in an official communiqué. "The online world undoubtedly presents massive opportunities for brands; however, it is only through deployment of precisely-tailored marketing strategies that they will be able to realise this potential. To choose the wrong channel, or simply add to the cacophony of online noise, risks alienating potential customers and impacting business growth."
 
Although 54 per cent of global social network users, and 60 per cent of Indian social network users admit that social networks are a good place to learn about products, the research indicates that brands ought to harness the power of the digital medium more carefully if they are to use it to their advantage, and deepen relationships with customers and prospects.

Further, the study reveals big geographic contrasts which highlight the risks of brands employing a catch-all approach that doesn't take the needs of different consumers into consideration.

Specifically, fast-growth markets were found to be far more open to brands on social networks.

Only 33 per cent of Columbian social network users, and 37 per cent of Mexican social network users say that they don't want to be bothered by them, while 59 per cent of social network users across fast-growing countries see social networks as a good place to learn about brands.

However, according to TNS, even here, brands must still plan and manage online engagement carefully to avoid alienating consumers.

Gupta says, "The key is to understand your target audience and what they want from your brand -- social networks aren't always the right approach. If consumers in one market don't want to be talked to, you can use an alternative online method -- create owned digital media platforms, targeted sponsorship, or search campaigns -- to engage consumers in an appropriate way that will achieve business results, without adding to the digital waste pile."

The study also sheds light on why people engage with brands online. In India, 45 per cent of those motivated to post comments on companies do so for the simple desire to impart advice. 

Findings showed that globally, more people like to praise than complain online (13 per cent versus 10 per cent), which is a similar trend in India as well (12 per cent versus 11 per cent).

The Spanish are least likely to praise online, with just one in 10 people who say that they would do so. Argentineans are amongst the most likely to complain about brands online (12.5 per cent).

However, motivations of online commentators can be self-serving. Nearly 63 per cent of Indian consumers are driven to engage with brands online by a promotion or special offer.
  
When examining global contrasts, TNS found that consumers in fast-growth markets are incredibly keen to spend more time and money online than they currently do, thus presenting major growth opportunities for brands. There are, however, infrastructure challenges yet to be overcome in these countries before businesses can really tap into the enthusiasm for the digital world. About 48 per cent of people already online in fast growth markets would use the internet more if it was less expensive. This figure is high in Africa -- 81 per cent of people in Ghana, 71 per cent in Nigeria, and 68 per cent in Kenya.
  
Likewise, while just a quarter of social network users in developed markets see social networks as a place to buy products, this figure rises to 48 per cent across fast-growth markets. Some of the most eager online consumers are found in India, where 59 per cent see social networks as a good place to buy products from brands.
  
And, when it comes to online shopping habits, Asian consumers are leading the adoption of group buying and purchase via mobile. Forty six per cent of digital consumers in China and 15 per cent of Indian consumers already use group buying tools. This is in stark contrast to Europe, where adoption rates are as low as 6 per cent in Sweden and Finland.
 
Adoption of shopping via mobile is also high in the Asian region, as 34 per cent of mobile internet users in China and South Korea, and 17 per cent in India, shop on their phones, while only 2 per cent do so in Egypt. Gupta comments, "There is a huge appetite for increased internet access and mobile services among consumers in fast-growth markets. The study shows that as online communities mature, brands that can cut through the digital noise have fantastic potential to drive rapid growth from this nascent consumer base."

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