LONDON: More than half of Britain's adult population engaged in social media does little to increase brand interest and create positive associations with brands online, new research has found.

Research group Kantar Media delved into its TGI Clickstream study of online consumer behaviour to analyse the social media connections and engagement of over 50m adults aged over 15 and identified six groups of social media users, ranging from 'passive socialites' at one end of the spectrum to 'connected engagers' at the other.

According to Richard Keogh, Head of Kantar Media TGI UK, "The different segments show that clicks and connections alone will not reveal consumers' actual engagement levels".

The single biggest set of users was the 'social spectators', who accounted for just over half the total. They were described as "a disengaged group with a respectable number of connections" but were not very likely to buy goods online, or to read or update their social media accounts. Nor did they post product reviews or follow brands online.

This group tended to be older, said Kantar Media, and, because they didn't carry high economic or cultural capital, were unlikely to have much clout or spending power for brands.

The group holding the most interest for brands was dubbed 'online experimenters', who had a crucial combination of purchasing power and online engagement. They accounted for 10% of all users, again tended to be older but these were particularly likely to engage with brands and to buy products online.

The 'connected engagers', who made up 3% of users, also held potential for brands, having the highest level of connections and influence and being most likely to spread the corporate word online. But because they lacked economic and cultural clout, they were unlikely to be big spenders.

'Connected dabblers' represented 10% of all users, had a high level of connections and followed brands on social media but were less likely to post reviews about products and brands. 'Passive socialites' accounted for 4% and also had a high level of connections but as they tended not to follow brands or post reviews, that meant they had a low level of influence.

Finally, 'credible contributors' – 22% of all users – had an average level of connections and engagement and were highly likely to follow brands and post reviews online.

"Marketers need to look beyond widely accepted metrics to specific evidence of engaged online activity to determine how valuable consumers are," said Keogh. He advised that they "review who they are targeting online to ensure they are directing their social media activities (and marketing budget) at the most appropriate audience".

Data sourced from Kantar Media; additional content by Warc staff