MOUNTAIN VIEW: Consumer expectations about how brands should behave on social media platforms are contradictory and full of double standards, according to a new survey.

Netbase, the social intelligence company, surveyed 1,062 US adult consumers aged 18–55+ on their awareness of and attitudes to social media listening. It found that 51% of consumers want to talk about companies without being listened to, but 58% want companies to respond to complaints shared on social media.

On drilling deeper, further disparities are revealed. Some 42% of respondents expect companies to respond to positive comments in social media, while 64% want companies to respond to social comments only when spoken to.

Most people claim to be aware that companies may be listening to what they say on social media, but almost a third of all consumers (32%) have no idea, a figure which rises to 38% for 18-24 year olds, the age group most likely to be using these platforms.

A total of 43% believe that brands listening to them is an intrusion on privacy, a concern which is, perhaps predictably, highest among baby boomers and lowest among Millennials.

But 48% say companies should listen to what is being said in order to help improve products.

A significant proportion, however, remain undecided on how they feel about brands listening to them, at least 20% in each age group.

"It's really important that marketers consider these findings when developing social media strategies," said Lisa Joy Rosner, CMO of NetBase.

"The companies that take the time to understand what customers are saying, and engage in a way that considers context and builds relationships, are the ones that will benefit from social listening and engagement."

Data sourced from Netbase: additional content by Warc staff