Brands May Be Alienating Consumers With ‘Digital Waste’

Report shows 60% of U.S. consumers don’t want brands to interact with them on social networks

 NEW YORK, Nov. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ – The established rules of communicating with customers are unraveling, especially online. While many companies embrace the potential of delivering messages over different digital platforms, they’re failing to realize the complexity of digital consumers and in so doing, are wasting their time and money – this according to findings from a global study launched by today by TNS, a Kantar company and part of WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY).

The race online has seen businesses across the world rush to develop an online voice by developing profiles on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, to speak to customers where they live quickly and cheaply. However, TNS’s research reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, messages become interrupted, unwanted and violates the users sense of community, thus counter-productively alienating the recipient from the brand.

The study found that nearly sixty percent (60%) of social network users in the U.S. do not want to engage with brands online. This leads to misguided digital strategies that are generating mountains of digital waste, from friendless Facebook accounts to blogs no one reads. When combined with ever-increasing content produced by consumers – the study shows that forty-seven percent (47%) of digital consumers now comment about brands online. The result is huge volumes of noise, which is polluting the digital world and making it harder for brands to be heard – presenting a major challenge for businesses trying to enter into a real dialogue with consumers.

“Winning and keeping customers is harder than ever,” said Cheryl Max, Senior Vice President of Marketing at TNS North America.  ”The online world presents massive opportunities for brands given all the channels, tactics and points of time in a day that people are online – according to our data, the average American spends 19 hrs per week is spent online –  it is only through deploying precisely tailored marketing strategies that companies will be able to recognize this potential. Choosing the wrong channel, or simply adding to the cacophony of online noise risks alienating potential customers and impacting business growth.”

Why DO consumers engage with brands?

TNS’s Digital Life study asked consumers exactly why they engaged with brands online. Fifty-four percent (54%) of people admit they use social networks to learn more about products, with only a quarter (25%) willing to move forward toward an actual purchase.  Furthermore, nearly forty-six percent (46%) of those who posted comments to a particular brand site did so for the simple desire to impart advice, while eighteen percent (18%) posted comments to praise and another twelve percent (12%) actively posted comments to complain about a negative brand experience. The study went on to reveal that for the most part, motivations for consumers to engage with a brand can be self-serving.  Sixty-one percent (61%) of consumers are driven to engage with brands online only by a promotion or to receive a special offer.

The findings were revealed by TNS’s Digital Life study, a comprehensive view of how more than 72,000 consumers in 60 countries behave online and why they do what they do. An interactive data visualization of the key findings can be found at

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