A new research report published by TNS Global, suggests that members of personal social sites like Facebook use them to “waste time” while a majority of members on professional social sites like LinkedIn use such sites to “invest time.” Commissioned by LinkedIn and published in a TNS Global report titled “The Mindset Divide,” this research attempts to understand people’s differing motivations for using personal social sites versus professional social sites, and how this information can be helpful to advertisers trying to reach social media users.
According to a BusinessInsider news article discussing the report, LinkedIn claims that users of professional social sites primarily want to keep up-to-date with their careers. Hence, 26 percent more users are expecting to hear messages from brands, more than users of non-professional or personal social sites. The research goes on to link intended purposes for usage of non-professional sites with such phrases as “kill time” and “distraction,” whereas it correlates usage of professional sites with terms like “aspiration,” “achievement,” and “success.”
Online Advertisers Must Read Between the “Divide”
A natural inclination would be to react to this report with skepticism; of course LinkedIn is biased in favor of its own service. However, the common-sense logic behind these findings add up even without a research study to back them. Personal social site users would likely be on a site for non-professional purposes, whereas professional site users might have more of a career-oriented approach to using social sites.
This, however, does not necessarily mean that professional sites are better for advertisers as the study implicitly suggests. While the advantage of advertising on professional sites is that users might be more open to brand messaging, the problem is that they are open only to a limited range of brands and messages, those which relate to career or professional development.
Furthermore, professional sites like LinkedIn still have a much smaller base of users when compared to personal social sites like Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook, which is currently the most visited website on the planet. A significant number of professional social site users are also members of personal social sites, whereas the reverse is not the case for personal social site users, many of which never use professional sites.
This means that personal social sites like Facebook still offer more of an opportunity in size as well as variety in messaging from online advertisers. The challenge, however, is that this size and variety opens the site up to issues like fake accounts, spam, viruses, and clutter that eventually make users more apprehensive of ads. Even professional sites like LinkedIn as they grow begin to experience the same challenge.
The takeaway for online advertisers is that to have your messages well received on social sites it should create value for your target audience and messages should be directed to users who want to hear about your brand. This can be achieved by a focus on social media advertising strategy that is centered around the idea of re-engaging on social media; an audience gained through other channels of advertising such as email, or traditional or print media; or through a viral strategy that is actively promoted by your audience themselves or through social media influencers in your market category.
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