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Quarter of social users ignore brands

News, 28 September 2016

GLOBAL: Usage of newer social platforms is growing rapidly, but more than a quarter of internet users around the world say they "actively ignore" social posts or content from brands, according to a new report.

The findings come from the latest Connected Life study, from research firm Kantar TNS, which looked at the digital attitudes and behaviours of 70,000 internet users across 57 countries.

Fully 26% of respondents globally indicated that they went out of their way to avoid branded content, a figure that rose to 57% in Sweden and Denmark; scepticism was rather less marked in Saudi Arabia (15%) and Brazil (19%).

Social platforms start out ad-free and with a focus on growing the number of users, but the need to monetise inevitably leads to the introduction of advertising. A problem for brands, however, is that many consumers now feel bombarded by presence of brands on social platforms, with 34% saying they feel "constantly followed" by online advertising.

Kantar TNS's study found that influencers and celebrities may hold the key to swaying people's views of brands: two out of five (40%) of 16-24 year olds said they trust what people say online about brands more than "official" sources, such as newspapers, brands' own websites or TV adverts.

It also suggested that brands needed to think more about creating content that works across multiple platforms, not just Facebook.

The rapid rise of Snapchat and Instagram is illustrative of this. Almost one quarter (23%) of internet-users are now on Snapchat, a huge jump from just 12% two years ago; Instagram has also seen a surge in popularity, with global usage jumping to 42%, up from 24% in 2014.

This development has been fuelled by people's desire for "instant, entertaining content from friends, peers and influencers, often enhanced by fun filters and editing", according to Michael Nicholas, Global Director at Kantar TNS.

"There is a real opportunity for brands to tap into this trend by creating 'personalisable' and shareable content, such as videos and stories," he said. "The challenge is how to focus the right content to the right people, on the right platforms and at the right moments."

Brands such as Disney, Starbucks and McDonald's have got it "spot on", he added, in their use of Snapchat's filters to engage consumers in a way that doesn't feel intrusive.

"This is key to overcoming many people's fundamental negative perceptions of brand activity online."

Readers can download a complimentary copy of Peter Field's analysis of the world's best social strategies.

Data sourced from Kantar TNS; additional content by Warc staff