Advertising on Social Media: Do You Trust?

Headline after headline tells us Internet users are concerned about their privacy and not trusting of networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, or the advertisers that support them. Yet the appetite for social media and connecting online is at a fever pitch. So do social media users really not trust the social networking sites they frequent? And are advertisers getting their money’s worth on social networks? The answers are yes, and…yes, according to new research out this week.

74 percent of daily social media users believe online social networks ‘are being ruined by people doing scams or sending out sleazy ads,’ and 58 percent of those same users believe that online social networks ‘are good places for brands to advertise to consumers.’

This somewhat conflicting information comes courtesy of a new, multi-phase study conducted by global research and technology firm Vision Critical®. The data was culled from more than 10,000 interviews with respondents in the United States, Britain and Canada over the past 12 months.

The study provides an interesting look into the way consumers fear advertisers have access to their private information, yet remain receptive to the brands those same advertisers promote. A key caveat, and new finding though, is the extent to which social media users rely on family and friends as a guide.

More than half of social media users say they most trust brand and product recommendations from family and friends. So for advertising to succeed in the social media world, researchers conclude, companies must first tap into the ‘recommend’ and ‘like’ features on social media apps, and then follow up by delivering coupons and special offers to social media users.

Some more uplifting findings for advertising companies: three-in-five respondents were receptive to advertisements they saw on their networking sites and 24 percent had made a purchase based on an ad they saw on an online social network.

The study highlights once again the love/hate relationship between the Internet and its users. Just as Google CEO Eric Schmidt would tell us, the only way to ensure online privacy is not to go online. Yet, luckily for him, there are still millions of people who flock to it every day as a way to connect and share.

The key takeaway from this new study is that, just as users take precautions but still overlook their privacy concerns to log into sites like Facebook and Twitter, they’re also willing to take the chance on products they see advertised on those sites. Advertisers just must, we now know, check in with mom, dad, sister and friend first.

What are your thoughts? Is online social media advertising convenient, trustworthy, or a privacy scare?