Consumers Want to Interact With Companies on Social Media

I recently included the information below in a speech about Social Media Marketing for ISHMPR (Illinois Society of Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations), and it led to some surprised looks and a very nice discussion. So I’ll summarize here for your review.

According to the findings of the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, almost 60% of Americans interact with companies on a social media Web site, and one in four interact more than once per week. The survey finds that 93% of Americans believe a company should have a presence in social media, while 85% believe a company should not only be present, but should also interact with its consumers via social media. 56% of American consumers feel both a stronger connection with, and better served by, companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.

Mike Hollywood, director of new media for Cone, observes that “… social media… it isn’t an intrusion into their lives, but rather a welcome channel for discussion.”

When Americans were asked about specific types of interactions:

43% say that companies should use social networks to solve their problems
41% want companies to solicit feedback on their products and services
37% feel that companies should develop new ways for consumers to interact with their brand
33% of men and 17% of women interact frequently (one or more times per week) with companies via social media

“The ease and efficiency of online conversation is likely a draw for men who historically do not seek out the same level of interaction with companies as women,” says Hollywood.

33% of younger, hard-to-reach consumers (ages 18-34), believe companies should actively market to them via social networks, and the same is true of the wealthiest households (household income of $75,000+). Two-thirds of the wealthiest households and the largest households (3 or more members) feel stronger connections to brands they interact with online.

And eMarketer reports that Generation Y (those born after 1979) online buyers are more immersed in online and mobile activities than any other generation, according to 2008 research from shopping comparison site PriceGrabber. Some 85% of Gen Y respondents said they participated in social networking, and 57% reported involvement with blogs.

Data from an August 2008 survey of Web merchants, sponsored by Internet Retailer, found that, of the 39.3% of retail respondents that use social networks, 32% have a page on Facebook, 27% on MySpace and 26% on YouTube.

Social Networking Sites on Which US Online Retailers Currently Maintain a Page

Site % of Respondents

Facebook 32%
MySpace 27
YouTube 26
Flickr 5
Other 10

Source: Internet Retailer, September 2008

Hollywood concludes that “All of this is great news for marketers… men and younger consumers are traditionally the most challenging to reach… (and) they are saying… market to us and interact with us online… “