Although analysts have predicted that social media will continue to have a significantly positive effect on brand awareness and purchase decisions, a new report by Gartner has revealed a growing social media “fatigue” among users of sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The findings were based on a survey of more than 6,000 respondents between the ages of 13 and 74, and compiled in a report titled: User Survey Analysis: Trends in Consumers’ Use of Social Media.
“Aspirers,” a group Gartner describes as “young, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers” ages 19 to 39 are leveraging social media less often, according to the survey. Approximately 31% of this group’s respondents indicated they are growing bored with current social networks, and yearn for a more unique and innovative platform.
“Branded content needs to be kept fresh and must be able to capture people’s attention instantly,” according to Brian Blau, Research Director at Gartner. “The new generation of consumers is restless and short on attention span, and a lot of creativity is needed to make a meaningful impact.”
To peak interest among younger consumers, retailers developing a social media plan within their cross-channel strategy should focus on initiating compelling communication. “Retailers really need to focus on establishing a social media strategy for their product and brands, make a plan for connecting with these customers at their points of interest such as social networking sites, mobile devices, and through partnerships with established businesses who already have a presence in the consumer market,” Blau explained. Additionally, he urged companies to leverage social media analytics, “which are used to help organizations understand what those customers are saying in the online social conversations.”
To counteract this social media “fatigue,” providers must innovate, Blau noted. “Consumers will continue to embrace social networking services, and service providers are constantly innovating and adding new products and features that will keep consumer interest in social networking for the foreseeable future,” he said. “While we did find that interest in social networking from some segments is starting to wane, this is counterbalanced by the technology providers’ view that social interactions are a more effective way to reach and interact with their customers.”
Age And Location Alter Social Media Participation
The survey report also noted that social media preferences vary based on shopper age and location. Survey results showed that consumers in countries that are more advanced in social media — such as Japan, the UK and the U.S. — are more dedicated to the sites, with roughly 40% of respondents using the sites more often than when they first joined. Conversely, consumers in countries such as Brazil and Russia are displaying less enthusiasm. Respondents from those countries stated that they used the sites 30% and 40% less, respectively. However, South Korea and Italy are prime areas for further near-term adoption, with nearly half of respondents reporting that they use their social media sites more often today.
Overall, Gartner found that social media interest depended largely on age, with 37% of respondents in younger and more tech-savvy segments increasing their participation in social media. On the other end of the spectrum, 24% of respondents who aren’t as technologically advanced are using the sites less.
Security Concerns Deter Some Social Media Users
Survey results showed that 33% of respondents, primarily in older age segments, named unreliable privacy processes as a negative factor influencing their participation in social media sites. “Social media privacy will continue to be an issue for the platform providers as consumers are being more vigilant about how they manage their social networking privacy settings,” Blau said. “Online privacy is a concern for many countries and many, such as the U.S. and EU regions, have legislation proposed that will give consumers a more balanced approach to how their privacy is being managed, but at the same time will allow for businesses to still get value from the intimate knowledge they have about consumers.”
Although certain groups have decreased their participation, social media should continue to be a primary marketing tool in retailers’ arsenals, according to Blau. “Retailers should maintain a strong interest in social networking and look for ways to exploit these services to better reach their customers,” he said. “While today's social networking services are mainly confined to web and mobile apps, those social experiences can be extended to include retail locations, lifestyle services, and related industries such as travel and entertainment services.”