NEW YORK: The overwhelming majority of social content created by brands is meant for an audience of one rather than a wider readership, a new study suggests.

According to research from Spredfast, a social software platform, just 7% of brand content, on Twitter at least, was directed towards a brand's entire audience, making this the tip of a "social iceberg".

Most (93%) content is made up of 1:1 communications that are responding to questions or addressing complaints. And, noted Chris Kerns, VP/Research & Insights at Spreadfast: "These conversations can't be planned; they have to be fast, helpful and executed at high volumes."

The findings emerged from the Smart Social Report Volume 4, which collected Twitter data from 20 major global brands for 2015 across a range of categories including software/internet, electronics, grocers and airlines, and mined all relevant accounts – a total of 43 – to measure their entire social footprint on the channel.

"Not only did 1:1 conversations far outnumber 1:many conversations for 2015, the numbers rose steadily every quarter throughout the year," Kerns wrote in Marketing Land.

He added that "some of the brands with the highest rates of personal social outreach might surprise you".

These included electronics manufacturer Samsung (96% of its tweets were replies), internet giant Microsoft (96% of its tweets were to individuals) and supermarket chain Asda (whose 1:1 tweets made up 97% of all its 2015 Twitter content).

Several reports have observed a trend towards utilising social media as a customer service channel. Last year, for example, the Institute of Customer Service reported an eight-fold increase between 2014 and 2015 in the use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+ to make a complaint.

But it also highlighted the fact that two-thirds (64%) of customers described their interactions as "a good experience"', with just 14% suggesting their experience was less than positive.

Kerns advised marketers to check on how they were allocating their attention and budgets in order to ensure 1:1 marketing was getting the attention it deserves.

Data sourced from Spredfast; additional content by Warc staff