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Survey of Social Media Users Offers Mixed Messages for Marketers

The biggest takeaway for marketers and advertisers from a
new J.D. Power/NetBase consumer survey, titled Social Listening vs. Digital
Privacy: How to Engage Consumers Based on Their Attitude Toward Privacy
, is
that they should use what's being said on social platforms to improve their
products and services.

However, the survey respondents delivered some mixed
messages. Most don't want marketers listening to their conversations on social
media, even though the conversations are, in many instances, publicly available,
but they do want marketers to respond to their needs and complaints.

The survey summarizes that "on the one hand, many consumers
feel that they should be free to talk about brands without the company
listening in. On the other hand, just as many know that companies are listening
and expect them to respond to both compliments and complaints posted online."

Here are some of the general findings from those surveyed,
aged 18-55-plus:

  • 32% of consumers don't know brands are listening to what
    they say online.
  • 43% think marketers listening on social media intrudes on privacy.
  • 51% want to talk about brands in social media without brands listening.
  • 48% say companies should listen in social media only to improve products and
  • 42% expect companies to respond to positive comments in social media, but 58%
    say they want brands only to respond to complaints, somewhat of a double
  • 64% want companies to respond to comments only directly addressed.

What age groups are using social networking? The survey
finds that 90.4% of millennials aged 18-24 use social network platforms; 81.7%
of consumers 25-34; 84.5% of consumers aged 35-44; 77.3% of consumers 45-54;
and 70.8% of consumers 55-plus.  The most frequently used social network,
the survey found, is Facebook.

Consumers 18-24 and 25-34 are the most active
bloggers, with an almost equal 36.5% and 36.9%, respectively, of consumers
using the platform.  Millennials 18-24 are the most active video sharers
with 75.7% of that age group doing so. When it comes to online shopping,
consumers 25-34 and 35-44 are in a dead heat with 55.2% and 55.2%,
respectively, in that area. The 55-plus group is also fairly active, with 37.5%
saying they shop online.

While 18-24-year-olds are the most active on social networks,
they are least likely to realize that brands are listening to their
conversations online. Among that group, 38.3% are clueless in this regard,
compared to the 32% average for all respondents.

Consumers 55-plus are most adamant about brands not
listening to their social conversations with 36% saying they are against it. The
other age groups fall much below that, averaging between 16% and 19%.

Between 50% and 65% of consumers in each age group want
brands to respond when they are talked about online. At 64.3%, millennials
18-24 are most eager to have brands respond to them, while at 50.2%, consumers
55-plus are the least likely to want brand response.

The report also includes the following advice for marketers.

  1. Don't just listen.
    The first step is to understand what consumers are saying. Is a complaint or
    comment one loud voice or a growing trend? Is sentiment up because of a product
    feature or a great ad? By understanding the full picture, marketers can craft
    responses that are aligned with their social media objectives.
  2. Consider the context of the
    . Are consumers reaching out to a brand directly or just
    venting to their friends? Marketers need to remember that the consumers'
    context, not theirs, is driving their expectations of a response.
  3. Engage with the intention of delivering
    mutual value
    . In the e-commerce world, consumers have shown they are
    willing to give up some level of privacy in exchange for better service.
    Likewise, proactive service that clearly benefits the consumer is the best way
    to alleviate their privacy concerns.
  4. Demonstrate how listening doesn't
    intrude but instead builds relationships
    . Marketers' actions speak louder
    than their words. And the social Web can magnify the positive effects of those

The survey was conducted using the JDPowerPanel
from which 1,062 U.S. consumers ages 18-55-plus were polled online during
December 2012.