Consumers use social media to tell brands: “We want to help” (Part 1)

Part 1 of a guest post by Steven Van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Company & The Conversation Manager.

A few days ago, InSites Consulting, SSI and No Problem! launched their “Social Media around the World 2012” study. One of the main conclusions of this year’s edition is the consumer’s eagerness to help companies on a structural level. Consumers would like nothing more than to help businesses improve the quality of their existing products and services. They see it as a win-win situation. This article highlights the most striking conclusions from this large-scale study.

Social media landscape is stabilising

The big social network sites are getting bigger and the small ones are getting smaller. This is one of the conclusions of our report. The big four all continue to expand: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Clearly consumers are no longer waiting for the “next big thing”. The average consumer maintains a presence on no more than 2 social networks (usually Facebook + Twitter or LinkedIn). Just 8% of consumers use 5 or more sites. Consumers are satisfied with the current offer: they have integrated their social media use in their daily lives and have no intention of making changes any time soon. The new routine is set and that makes it doubly hard for new social networks to reach a large audience.

However, there is one notable exception. Consumers are willing to fit in unique applications. Instagram and Pinterest are the two rising stars that meet this requirement. Use of the two sites is still very limited (3%-4%) but a good portion of consumers intend to start using them in the future. Also, their current users are extremely enthusiastic. We expect more users to discover Instagram and Pinterest in the near future.

Consumers limit the number of brands but have clear expectations

More than half of consumers are connected to at least one brand on social media. The average consumer follows some 10 to 15 brands. Most brands are monitored passively. Consumers only interact with a handful of brands. This means brands have just a small window of opportunity to make the shortlist.

Consumer communication with brands is unambiguous; they know exactly what they want. They like to keep informed of new products and news in general. In addition, they are interested in promotions and free goodies. Consumers want to be actively involved in the management of the companies they are following. They are primarily interested in improving existing products and services. Ultimately they are also trying to do themselves a favour: as loyal customers, good products and services are in their own best interest.

80% of consumers want to help but only 16% of companies let them

The study conducted by InSites Consulting, SSI and No Problem! shows that the overwhelming majority of consumers are prepared to collaborate with companies they are interested in. 80% wouldn’t mind receiving an invitation. However, other studies by InSites Consulting have found that only 16% of companies have any experience with consumer collaboration.

Consumers still prefer to give companies feedback via e-mail. The website comes second and social media are back in third place. As stated above, consumers have a preference for improving existing products and services. Still, quite a few consumers are interested in brainstorming about other things such as new products or a new advertising campaign. Some even dream of having a say in the company’s overall strategy.

65% are prepared to join a company’s community in order to collaborate with that company. Unsurprisingly, Facebook is the preferred channel for this purpose but the second place of market research communities is less self-evident. The conclusion that consumers prefer to involve a market research agency is remarkable in and of itself.

To better understand the results, we looked into consumer motivation to help companies. The main reason is simple: consumers hope companies will put their feedback to good use. Consumers with this motivation join a research community because they think companies are likely to act upon the advice of such a community.

For the full InSites Consulting report click here, and here are Steven’s website and slideshare links.