Social network ads fall short in UK

13 June 2011

LONDON: A majority of UK consumers are disinterested in advertising on social networks, a study has found.

Based on a survey of netizens, insights provider Mintel reported that 66% of people using these properties "rarely" take any notice of ads. Moreover, 56% "don't like" buying items they have seen featured in such executions - a total that rises to 70% of 25-34 year olds.

Some 15% of members employ Web 2.0 platforms when seeking out special offers, falling to 13% for tracking down product information, while 11% "actively" pay attention to ads.

Another 31% of contributors listened to word of mouth recommendations about goods and services from their "friends" and "followers" online.

"Companies who want to use social media as a promotional tool need to look beyond text ads or interactive banners and invest in actual engagement," Cecilia Liao, senior technology analyst at Mintel, said.

"Our research does not suggest that advertising on social networks is ineffective, but that social network users may not find ads ... particularly memorable or relevant, on a conscious level at least."

Overall, 73% of the internet audience had used Facebook - hitting 83% for women, compared with 77% regarding men - and 57% visit this property a minimum of once a week.

Exactly 40% of respondents have profiles on at least two services, and 31% stated they would "defect" to an alternative provider if their friends did.

In a related trend, keeping in touch with friends was the most popular reason to utilise social networks, recording 78%, measured against 68% in a similar study last year.

Contacting old friends scored 55%, ahead of staying up-to-date with news and playing games on 26%, making new friends (7%), and dating (7%).

A third of the panel agreed they now spoke to their friends online more than face-to-face, reaching 35% concerning 16-24 year olds, and 43% for 25-34 year olds.

Elsewhere, 44% of Mintel's cohort "did not like the idea" of buying products through social networks, partly due to privacy worries.

Just 12% of those polled would be willing to pay for social network membership, standing at 15% when discussing individuals under the age of 35 years old, and 7% referencing older counterparts.

A 27% share of interviewees said that accessing Web 2.0 services on a mobile phone was "very important" to them, rising to 47% where people already participated in this pastime.

Data sourced from Mintel; additional content by Warc staff