Study: Untargeted Ads Turn Off Social Net Users

Social networking is all about linking people with common interests. For most, brands are a part of those interests. So much so that 56 percent of respondents to a new survey said their social networking experience would be better if marketers pushed more targeted ads, per online branding consultancy Prospectiv, Wakefield, Mass.

Sixty-two percent of the nearly 800 online social network users polled in March said they’d be interested offers for their preferred brands.

The problem is marketers are failing to provide social net users with information and offers about products they want to use. The vast majority of respondents (87percent) said very few or no ads matched their interests or preferences. As a result, about 54 percent of participants said that they never respond to an ad they see on social networking sites.

“These users want, and welcome, information about new products, savings and other offers, and they’re clearly stating that if the ads were more targeted and relevant, it would be worthwhile to them,” said Jere Doyle, CEO of Prospectiv.

Why is there a disconnect? Brands too often consider social network campaigns as an extension of their mass media spots so the creative isn’t properly tailored for the medium, said John Paulson, president of interactive agency G2, a unit of Grey Worldwide, New York. Brands “are treating the space like they would another, traditional content site. That doesn’t work.”

Another issue: There is a surplus of ad-space inventory not managed by the sites themselves which accounts for untargeted messages, per media buyers. Plus sites are not mining enough data from willing consumers to provide deeper targeting.

Jeff Berman, president of sales and marketing for MySpace said the site has made great strides in this area. TJ Maxx and Target, for example, have reached consumers based on an expressed interest in fashion or a musical genre. These efforts have netted “performance increases of up to 300percent when compared to standard demographic targeting, and we’re still just in the early stages of optimization.”

On Facebook a wedding portrait agency, Bella Photography, greatly boosted its business by placing ads for a photo package sweepstakes on the profiles of women who had listed themselves as being engaged.

Mike Murphy, Facebook’s director of sales, said increased targeting of ads benefits not only the brands and the users, but also the networking sites themselves. “The perception is that advertising is a cost that users pay to experience a free site. But the more that we can do to reduce that perceived cost, by providing targeted and relevant advertising, the better.”

G2 is currently working on a variety of widgets for its clients that fit seamlessly into the social networking environments. Paulson said, “We have to work within their universe to add value to them.”