Social media marketing requires a deft touch. Go in heavy handed and your followers will give you the brush off.

New research reveals that almost half (40%) of Brits now ‘actively ignore’ social posts or ads from brands.

Ignored

The findings, unearthed by market research company Kantar TNS, didn’t surprise us one bit. You only need to glance at one of the platforms – be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – to see that some brands have misjudged the medium.

Users of social media need no excuse to engage in discussions. But some of the content brands serve up on social leave little or no room for engagement; whether that be due to them posting salesy messages or content that shows a disregard for their audience.

An example of unengaging branded content

Take this post from NME Magazine, from a couple of weeks back, as an example:

NME doesn’t post much in the way of, what I would call, personal content on social media, i.e. content that is unique to the magazine, due to the fact that it has been generated by themselves, as opposed to being taken from elsewhere.

Here it posts a piece of personal content: a picture from inside their office. However, instead of making the brand feel more authentic – the whole point of brands posting personal content – it just makes us cringe.

As one commenter put it: “Did [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Pizza Express] send [the pizza] on the condition you had to post on social media about it?”

The post still got nearly 50 likes, but that’s nothing to shout home about given that NME has over 850K followers. Unsurprisingly, it got next-to-no comments. How are people meant to engage with a post like that?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot worse examples of branded content out there, but that’s just something that caught my attention recently.

Back to the research…

Globally, just over a quarter (26%) of consumers choose to ignore branded content, while 34% said they feel ‘constantly followed’ by online advertising.

Again, that doesn’t cause any great astonishment; adverts do permeate our online experience. But on social media, people shouldn’t feel bombarded with advertising messages, and I include overtly salesy posts in that. Even subtle, salesy posts can feel like an advert.

It’s high time brands dropped the salesy, intrusive approach, says Michael Nicholas, global director at Kantar TNS.

“Some brands are getting it spot on – in the past year we’ve seen the likes of Disney, Starbucks and McDonald’s use Snapchat’s filters to engage consumers in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive,” he explained.

“This is key to overcoming many people’s fundamental negative perceptions of brand activity online.”

Influencers can help

One way brands are attempting to overcome this is by teaming up with influencers. Kantar TNS’s research suggests that it’s a wise move.

The study found two out of five (40%) 16 to 24 year olds say they trust what people say online about brands more than ‘official’ sources, such as newspapers, brands’ own websites or TV adverts.

However, we think there are ways of changing people’s negative perceptions of brand activity online which don’t involve using an influencer.

Changing perceptions

Nicholas is right in asserting that “younger people are more influencer-oriented than ever before”, but for smaller businesses especially, influencer marketing is not entirely viable.

However, there’s nothing stopping them from deploying some clever social media marketing. We’re talking engaging videos, original images, posts based on monitoring, leveraging hashtags – that sort of thing.

The only way brands can change people’s minds about branded content is to make the posts about their audience, rather than themselves. Only then, when the posts are genuinely eye-catching, will users take note of what brands have to say. Until then, users will just keep scrolling past your content to get to the good stuff.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Ben Hollom

October 5, 2016