Brands Not Connecting with Women Through Social Media

Discussion
Sep 04, 2009
George Anderson

By
George Anderson

A
study by ad:tech Chicago and Q Interactive finds that three out of four women
who engage with brands via social networking sites say they are not influenced
to purchase based on what they see online.

The
research, which surveyed 1,000 women online, found nearly 22 percent were
somewhat influenced in purchasing decisions after visiting social networking
sites while three percent reported being greatly influenced.

“Although
women are socializing a lot more with each other, they are not interacting
with brands more. The brands are falling behind in this game and they
are not opening dialog with women in this arena,” Matt Wise, president
of Q Interactive, told Brandweek. “We’re seeing a divide right
now of where the women are leaping ahead of the brand and the brands
are struggling to find how best to interact with them.”

Although
52 percent of survey respondents report having “friended” a brand, most
encountering brands online were either neutral (64 percent) or had a
negative reaction (19 percent).

“Brand marketers still have a fundamental misunderstanding of
what a social environment actually means – people are communicating on their
own terms,” Jonathan Ashton, managing partner for Agency.com, told Brandweek. “[Marketers]
need to find a way to disassociate the brand from product and associate the
brand with lifestyle or something that has more meaning on a personal level.
The selling opportunity will come on after you ultimately create a relationship
with someone in these environments.”

Discussion
Questions: Are you surprised at all by the numbers in the ad:tech Chicago
and Q Interactive study showing the influence that social media sites
have in the purchasing decisions of women? Do you see this number changing
in the future and are there ways for brands to more effectively communicate
with and influence female consumers?

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21 Comments on "Brands Not Connecting with Women Through Social Media"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Social media helps with “intent” or possibility to buy much more than to drive purchase. The fact people befriended at all may mean the advertisers are preaching to the choir. Why the numbers aren’t higher may speak more to the study than the facts.

Dan Raftery
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Social media experts generally caution that traditional marketing techniques need to be strongly avoided in this medium. In short, marketers are advised to listen to consumers and not talk to them as they usually do with marketing messages. This is not your father’s communication vehicle.

David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

With all due respect for surveyors I’m hardly swayed by such results. Behavioral consumer buying online or to what extent a consumer is influenced by what she reads or views online…Well, it’s NOT a survey question that can be answered accurately by most subjects. Truth is, consumers know little about how even their own intuition responded to news, articles, words, graphics, images, word-of-mouth, etc. Long subject but short answer: Psychologists in the consumer marketing field will tell you not to take these types of survey results seriously.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

If brands are going to be effective online they need to create a dialogue with consumers and add something valuable to the discussion. Brands need to participate in a non-selling manner. If brands can add something valuable to the dialogue–a helpful hint that will make the consumer’s life easier or save her time or money, a new recipe, etc–the consumer will develop a positive opinion of the brand. Brands can also use their websites to connect consumers. By providing a forum and not trying to control the conversation, a brand can build goodwill.

There is no holy grail in this area. Brands will learn by trial and error. And just because something works for one brand does not mean it will work for another. The one mantra that brand managers need to repeat over and over is, “NO Selling.”

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
It’s hard to comment about the study results without knowing more about the study; the respondents’ profile and the questions asked. If we are to just focus on the study findings as presented I’d have to say I’m not surprised by the results at all. There’s quite a difference between checking what’s in someone’s pantry or on a shopping receipt and asking “are you influenced by…?” Few people see themselves as influenced by advertising, much less social media, for most products. However, if you ask them about exposure to brands the answer is probably that social media can be very effective in raising awareness, the first necessary (but not sufficient) step towards purchase. Brands which are least likely to be impacted by social media probably include paper towels and butter. Electronics and other durables may have a better opportunity to get some lift from Social Media. Before I focus on consumers’ views of what motivates their purchase, I’d first examine the relationship between social media, brand awareness, perceptions of the brand and brand usage. Compare… Read more »
Chuck Palmer
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
I’m not surprised at all. Part of the problem with this sort of scrutiny and inquiry is the old-school advertising world presumption that pushing messages at people makes them buy things. Let’s be honest here, impression is not equal to decision. The reasons people are drawn to social media is social, which is inherently emotional and irrational. The reason people “friend” (is that a verb now?) a brand is that it says something about them as individuals, not that they will actually purchase. These are two very different things. The smart brand marketers out there are using social media to learn more about people as people, not as some construct we call customers or consumers. Social media holds powerful and robust potential to maintain a learning dialog. It’s the brands’ and retailers’ challenge to guide that on their audience’s terms and use the information gathered to tailor their offer to their best customers. Oh, and let’s not forget all the women out there who don’t use or have time to use social media. They spend… Read more »
Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 8 months ago

Another study (no shortage of these) found that 74% of online users trusted recommendations from other members of their social network (blogs, Facebook), but only 14% trusted traditional advertising.

Taking the same one-directional approach (we talk, you listen) and putting it onto a new medium will not alter the trust level.

As mentioned above, what social media offers that is new is the ability to LISTEN. Once marketers figure that out and how to use that ability, Social Media will have a profound impact.

Matthew Spahn
Guest
Matthew Spahn
11 years 8 months ago

Social media sites are succeeding at elevating brand awareness in successful implementations but that does not translate directly to brand preference and purchase which is a mistaken association that is often made. Oh by the way, I doubt this phenomenon is exclusive to women.

Ultimately marketers are slowly figuring out the space and how to move from brand awareness to preference and purchase. We have seen successful social implementations like BlendTec’s successful YouTube series on “Will it Blend?” where they realized a five-fold sales increase.

Starbucks is another example where they have empowered consumers with an opportunity to make suggestions and offer ideas that are then voted on and implemented. Sounds a lot like putting the consumer in control which is about driving and influencing preference.

The forum now exists to put the consumer in charge. Empower your customers and make certain you respond.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 8 months ago
The tough part is that many of the brands engaging in social media are still being headed up by old-school marketers who are looking for the payback to justify costs. I think this is the steepest learning curve for companies starting out. Social media builds influence which, in time, can lead to income but it’s not the straight “awareness, trial, acceptance” type of marketing pattern a lot of executives are used to. It’s more of a karma thing. If a consumer relationship doesn’t monetize, does that make it worthless? I don’t think so but I know a lot of marketing VPs who would disagree with me. Given the incredibly hectic lives we (but especially women) lead, I think the best thing a brand can do is give women a place to escape to. Give them a safe haven for a few brief minutes a day. A spot where they can learn, have fun and enjoy. No strings attached. No expectations. Become an influence in their lives and it can’t help but pay off at some… Read more »
Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
What a fantastic group of panelists already commenting on this topic! Everyone has a legit POV here, it’s worth reading the whole thread of discussion. At the end of the day, there are three key takeaways for me. 1) The key is listening. Brands that are out there participating on Facebook, Twitter, Whrrl and the like are hopefully engaged in listening and learning, not just “blurting at consumers.” They are ahead of the pack and I say good for them. 2) The reality of measuring influence. We need to get over the numbers and stats game. Anthropological and sociological research is needed to really understand why people buy. The survey stats end up in decks and are virtually meaningless. 3) The brand’s moment–now and forever–a brand MUST continue to evolve, allowing consumers to help shape it. A brand steward’s job is to be ever aware of its mojo and differentiating relevancy to its target consumers and shoppers. Only then can marketers help a brand really understand when and where along the path to purchase that… Read more »
Dan Gilmore
Guest
Dan Gilmore
11 years 8 months ago

What often amazes me about some of this stuff is that we know it doesn’t influence us personally, but somehow think the dumb masses out there are being influenced.

I ask the RetailWire audience–what have you been influenced to buy through consumer goods online social media?

If the answer is nothing, you are like just about everyone else. (I will note consumer reviews for bigger ticket items I think are influential).

I’ll have to ask my wife how engaged she is in the Procter & Gamble online community. I am sure she is deeply connected….

A lot of this stuff is simply the Emperor with No Clothes.

John Bajorek
Guest
John Bajorek
11 years 8 months ago

While the numbers that the report are based on are not significant enough to support a true trend analysis, the points made by the executives in regards to a need to personalize the relationship through social media are dead on. Brand extensions online and even through apps need to provide a benefit and relevance. Consumers don’t wake up thinking about which brands they are going to friend, however they will think about brands in the context of their lives. The challenge is to make sure that the brand can make it as easy as possible to maintain a relationship with them–through better promotions, better services, new product information… Remember, the consumer defines the brand relationship, not the other way around.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I agree with Matthew above that this is not exclusive to women. The researchers could have replaced the sample with any group of people in general and probably would have had similar results. Perhaps women are more fascinating to study. There is no way to make a conclusion to the study since the researchers did not compare the same data to men or other minority groups. Perhaps other groups scored even lower so in reality the 22% of the women being influenced by social groups might actually be a high score compared to men or other groups.

David Reed
Guest
David Reed
11 years 8 months ago

I’m puzzled that this information isn’t common knowledge. How many of the women you know “connect” with a personless entity? All the women I know like faces and voices and actual contact with other humans–all the brands that I know that have “connected” with the women I know have done so through interaction with quality people, not marketing, regardless of channel.

~shrugs~

Maybe I’m not understanding what is meant by the word “connect” in this context–perhaps it is only about how they’re spending?

Pamela Danziger
Guest
Pamela Danziger
11 years 8 months ago

I think they are drawing the wrong conclusions from the data. Whether or not women think they are being influenced by social media (i.e. they tell you they have been influenced) vs. whether they really are influenced are two entirely different things.

The fact that women have linked up and befriended various brands is critical and demonstrates the real influence of social media.

My company’s–Unity Marketing’s–research does show, however, that today’s shoppers are more aware of brands than ever, but that brand awareness is not necessarily translating into more brand loyalty and purchase. All the same, marketers have to start somewhere and those women who make the effort to connect with a particular brand through social media rank highly motivated in my book.

Michael Boze
Guest
Michael Boze
11 years 8 months ago

I did not see this article differentiate between how men react to social media and whether it is significantly different than women. Are you measuring women or the medium? This study lacks some basic benchmarks.

Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
11 years 8 months ago
The conversation here about catches it: to use the language of current social-media themes–okay, FriendFeed, my favorite h geeky angout–brands are largely doin’ it wrong, and if they keep looking at traditional metrics from traditional methods, they will #FAIL, Epically. Social media is about PEOPLE. People acting like people–maybe a version of the sample lady in the grocery aisle. To me, it’s about brand ambassadors, hanging out and answering questions, cutting through customer-service red tape. Or, if corporate HQ is really brave, starting conversations about how people use the products in real life or what features they really hate or thought they’d never use. Basically, imagine the customer-reviews section on Amazon and bring it to life in real time, with a friendly company rep to listen in and help out. So when a customer says that feature A is totally unusable, the company rep can say, “Well, did you try pulling back Lever B?” Customer A can say s/he never saw Lever B–and substantially correct the impression of the negative review. Or, the rep can… Read more »
Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

If the CONSUMER states in a survey that a particular media INFLUENCES their purchase decision, believe them. These folks are not the village idiot–they are our family, friends, and neighbors.

If the survey pointed out refers to strictly the “Social Network” pages of Facebook, MySpace, etc., the number seems a bit high, but a sample of 1,000 people does offer a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, which is respectable. If it includes a broader space of “Word of Mouth” that could include calling or e-mailing a friend, then the number is, perhaps a bit low.

Social Media is going to grow in terms of INFLUENCE. However, it still shares the stage with Traditional Media of Television, Radio, Newspapers, Direct Mail, Magazines, etc., as well as varied other “New” media. Retailers would do well to work with the Social Media side (including the Word of Mouth approaches), but keep a holistic media plan in play.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

The numbers don’t surprise me and, in my opinion, they do not indicate a failing of social media to engage women with brands.

This hints instead that companies don’t quite know how to use social media tools to get the desired effect. Maybe building a community and creating some “live” events would do a better job at building brand affinity among women for consumer brands.

At the WOMMA conference in Miami this spring, I heard an excellent case study of how OreIda potatoes used these techniques to support the launch of a new product.

Shilpa Rao
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Well the numbers are not surprising, perhaps not many brands have leveraged the power of social media in true sense, making a connect with women. The problem with most is, there is often not much to come back too. Women would like to interact with a brand, much like they would like to interact with their friends. Brands need to keep their social media face “live,” build trust and credibility for them to influence women.

Dave Hamel
Guest
Dave Hamel
11 years 8 months ago

A consumer clicking a “fan” link doesn’t give the retailer a good idea of why that person has done so–what does the “fan” want from the brand? Starbucks did a nice job recently of asking their fans what they wanted from being so. And then they worked to respond (including giving away 20,000 gallons of Starbucks ice cream).

I see too many brands re-purposing sales information as “fan” content. Probably because it’s easier than finding out why the consumer became a fan in the first place.

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