Facebook and Twitter fans say they’re tuning out commercial messages, according to Gallup

A new Gallup survey appears to confirm what many big companies have already suspected: Simply having a lot of fans on Facebook (or followers on Twitter or Google+) doesn’t always translate into selling more corn flakes … or cars … or other products.

“Most consumers aren’t visiting social media sites to engage with brands — they are there to interact with people they know, says a Gallup report released Monday. It goes on:

“When Gallup asked more than 18,000 consumers about the influence of social media on their buying decisions, 62% said they had no influence at all. Even among millennials (those born after 1980), whom companies often think of as the core social media audience, 48% said these sites were not a factor in their decision-making.”

While the survey doesn’t focus on Facebook exclusively, an article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal suggests its findings may underscore a change in the way many companies are using the social network.

In the past, many companies created and promoted Facebook pages because it seemed like an easy way to reach consumers: If you could get people to “like” your page, your posts would show up in their News Feeds for free. But Facebook has changed its formula in recent years, so users no longer see every post. Companies have groused that the change is Facebook’s way of pressuring them to buy ads instead. Facebook, however, says it’s putting the priority on posts that users want to see, because there is too much material to show everything.

That’s not to say that having a presence on social media doesn’t help a business. Gallup said companies can boost sales by interacting with customers online:

“ … companies’ use of social media to provide timely responses to questions and complaints accelerates brand loyalty and, eventually, sales. When it comes to social media efforts, businesses stand to benefit when they utilize a more service-focused approach rather than one dedicated to simply pushing their products.”

Some big companies are paying heed, by moving away from simply trying to build followers. The Ritz-Carlton chain told the Journal that it’s worrying less about adding more fans and focusing more on analyzing social media conversations to see what people like and don’t like about its hotels.

Meanwhile, Gallup notes: “U.S. companies spent a combined $5.1 billion on social media advertising in 2013, and they obviously believe that this presents them with a return on investment.”

Facebook is happy to help.  The social network has introduced a number of new advertising formats that go beyond simply highlighting endorsements or recommendations from friends. Most recently, it’s also begun selling ads targeted to users’ interests based on their visits to other sites around the web.




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  • Terry D. Whalen

    As one person wrote in the comments section put it, “62% say social media has little or no effect on their purchasing. But in other news, 35% say it does have some or a great deal of influence! (3% had no opinion.)”

    Also, the Gallup data is 18 months old – that is 10+ years in social media dog years(!) Prior to 18 months ago, the stars had not yet aligned for direct marketers advertising on Facebook:

    i.Newsfeed ads in their infancy

    ii.Conversion tracking just coming out of beta

    iii.No custom audiences

    iv.No lookalike audiences

    v.V 1.0 reporting

    vi.V 1.0 web ads interface

    vii.V 1.0 Power Editor interface

    We might find an analogy in paid search, which is wildly successful today, but even today there are likely to be a large percent of folks who would say they never click on paid search ads. This was much more true when Google was earlier in its growth, similar to where FB is, currently, in its growth.

    • 6 one way half a dozen another

      Actually, you just copied and pasted this comment from another of your (many?) comment(s?) made to a different article on this same topic. You have some kind of agenda – working for a social site like Facebook or Twitter or as at a marketing firm that sells online advertising space, for example – that shines right through your words.
      I actually use ad-blocking extensions and haven’t seen an online ad in many months. Even when I did, they were some of the worst and most irrelevant ads I ever saw, the equivalents to the tiny ads that appeared in the back pages of many of the mid-level magazines that are vanishing from the shelves.
      Yes these ads may help create brand awareness if not sales, but awareness is not the same as sales. I can hum or sing a lot of the jingles and background tunes to TV commercials, but I still won’t buy their products (and in some cases directly because of the commercials).
      Unless people are avidly sharing online, most, if not all, of the “targeted” ads will be failures and “liked” pages and posts will be hidden or deleted.

      • Terry D. Whalen

        My agenda is to weigh in on this topic, heh. Also, you are a good sleuth! I did copy and paste my comments in a few different articles that all reference the Gallup poll. Is that bad? Heh. Do yr ad blocking extensions block FB newsfeed ads? If so, pls share.