BOSTON: Some 89% of Americans who regularly use services like Facebook and Twitter believe brands should both have a presence in new media and actively seek to interact with their customers via such tools, a survey by Cone, the strategy and communications agency, has found.

The 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study was based on an initial poll of 1,048 people in the US, paired down to 587 "new media users", and was conducted by Opinion Research.

It found that 78% of people who frequently utilise digital platforms like blogs, social networks, video-sharing websites and online games interact with brands on these properties, compared with just 29% last year.

Some 37% of netizens also engage with brands at least once a week using new media, up from 25% in 2008, with 16% doing so on a monthly basis, and a quarter a "few times a year."

In terms of the exact channels used, 58% look to company websites, 45% to email, 30% to social networks, 24% to online games, 17% to forums, 16% to blogs, 14% to photo- or video-sharing sites, and 13% to mobile.

With regard to their perceptions of companies using these sorts of strategies to reach their target audience, 74% of the sample said they had a more positive image of the organisation in question.

A further 72% of participants argued they felt a "stronger connection" with such brands, up 16% on an annual basis, while 68% suggested such an approach meant they were "better served".

Moreover, 64% stated that their opinion of a company improved if one of their friends interacted with it on the web, while 52% have chosen to become a "friend" of a brand on a social network as it "helps showcase their personality online."

Among contributors' top priorities for corporate users of websites like MySpace and YouTube was that they provided information and helped solve problems, which was regarded as being most important by 61% of the panel.

This figure fell to 58% for offering incentives like free products or coupons, 49% for both soliciting feedback and developing devices like widgets, mobile applications and games.

Just over four in ten consumers referenced online advertising, with a similar number requiring that brands to be "entertaining", such as by providing free access to premium content.

Mike Hollywood, Cone's director of new media, said "consumers haven't yet been exhausted by brand oversaturation in the new media space."

"If companies are going to be a mainstay in new media, they're going to have to realise consumers expect more than a passive existence. New media are about experience, dialogue and immediacy."

Data sourced from Cone/eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff