New advertising opportunities brought by the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook have led to a study to understand the motivations for using such sites and the user engagement with the site compared to other sites. Results released on Wednesday from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) "New Rules of Engagement" study conducted by GfK NOP have shown people are less likely to trust brands advertised on social media sites. The 1340 respondents were twice as likely to trust advertisers using content sites and three times more likely to believe traditional content sites are better at influencing brand opinion.
According to the study, there are five key dimensions of engagement for users, trustworthiness (recognition of and confidence in a brand); authoritativeness (consistent, reliable thought-leadership); uniqueness; offering community (like minded user forums) and entertaining.
It also identifies trust, action and awareness as the three key characteristics of advertising behaviour. People are more likely to trust brands advertised on websites that they trust and are more likely to click on advertising links and purchase from sites they trust.
Andy Donaldson (HitSearch Director) commented ‘Getting the balance right in social media between being interesting and trustworthy to the ‘follower’ while still delivering a ‘sales message’ is one of the things most companies get wrong when starting out in social media. You wouldn’t go to a cocktail party and run straight up to the first person you meet and boldly introduce yourself on a loud speaker as having entered the room. The same boldness should be avoided with social media to avoid trust vanishing out of the window. Engaging with your social media audience needs to be a much softer and prolonged process – otherwise followers will be difficult to both attract and keep!’
This mirrors research by the AOP’s American equivalent, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) carried out in August 2010. The study also outlined that consumers were more likely to trust on traditional content sites compared to traditional content sites. It found that only 8% of respondents felt companies that placed ads on social media websites are reputable, compared to 21% of respondents who felt that advertisers on traditional content sites are reputable. The study also revealed those questioned felt that advertisers on social media sites are less respected and ads displayed on social media sites are not relevant.
Users will keep using social media sites until something better comes along. Advertisers need to engage with consumers and build relationships and their trust on these platforms in a way that meets users’ expectations for the site and the brand; for now it is an opportunity that brands shouldn’t ignore.