Brands Need a More Human Face to Avoid Being “Foreigners” in Social Media, Highlights Research

Firefly Millward Brown Provides Social Media Guidelines for Brands

BARCELONA, Spain--()--ESOMAR Qualitative 2010 Conference -- Market research company Firefly Millward Brown today presents the results of the first global qualitative research study into consumers’ general attitudes and behaviors towards brands in social media. The research, which was conducted using the company’s purpose-built private social network, will provide companies and their brands with valuable insight into how to navigate social media more effectively.

Consumers Value a Human Face and Gravitate to Brands that Act Like a Friend

The study highlighted the need for brands to earn trust via social media. Respondents revealed their:

  • desire for brands to behave more like a friend than a company.
  • dislike of brands and companies that talk “at” them (vs. “to” them).
  • desire for brands to be more relevant and transparent.

“Consumers want a dialogue where brands listen to what they have to say rather than just push their messages out without taking into account what consumers think, feel and want,” comments Rob Hernandez, global brand director, Firefly Millward Brown. “They dislike gimmicks and want companies to be honest about their products and services, warts and all. Consumers’ biggest fear is that marketers will turn social media from a community into a marketplace.”

Findings from this study also corroborated separate research from Millward Brown earlier this year (the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking) that supports the need for brands to develop a human face. It highlighted that many of the strongest brands in the world are built by leaders that act as a face for the brand.

By and Large, Corporations are Unsure About How to Engage in Social Media

The research also included in-depth discussions with organizations and found that although most organizations recognize the potential and importance of social media, they are confused about the rules of engagement and lack organizational support and confidence. As a result, many stay away from social media or jump in without fully understanding the impact it can have on their brand.

“Our research highlights that many companies do not fully understand the rules of engagement in social media,” says Hernandez. “This is further complicated by confusion about who in the organization should be responsible for social media, a reluctance to relinquish control, and a perception that they lack relevant content to share with consumers.”

10 Rules for Engaging with Social Media for Corporations

1. Don’t recreate your homepage in social media — consumers want to see something new, fresh or different from brands – not a rehash of the same information they can get on the brand’s official Web site.

2. Listen first, then talk: create a dialogue — by far one of the biggest issues consumers have – or anticipate – with brands is that they will simply talk at them instead of talking with them. They want a conversation where brands listen to what they have to say.

3. Build trust by being open and honest — transparency is key for brands in social media and is the most critical factor in building trust. However, consumers perceive that brands would rather hide behind policies and procedures than admit to their failings or shortcomings.

4. Give your brand a face — brands often suffer in social media because they don’t have anyone that answers to the consumer, a face for the brand. This prevents many consumers from actively engaging with companies in social media.

5. Offer something of value — consumers are more likely to respond to brands that offer them something real and tangible, preferably without wanting something in return. While discounts and coupons are in vogue for brands in social media, they can create distrust. Worthwhile and exclusive content or deals or inside information on new products and services are valued by consumers.

6. Be relevant — consumers want to see content that relates to their life, their interest, their desires and their needs. Interestingly, several respondents commented on the lack of relevance for brands of ‘functional’ products like detergent, fabric softener and household cleaning products within the social media universe. In social media consumers are more critical about content that isn’t deemed relevant and feel that it’s invading their space.

7. Talk like a friend not a corporate entity — consumers want brands to communicate in simple, casual language that is conversational. They do not want technical or sales speak.

8. Give consumers some control — to operate effectively, brands must relinquish some of the control they have held for many years and be comfortable with the fact that they cannot solely dictate the message anymore. Brands that embrace consumer input and promote it will be more effective in managing the conversation.

9. Let consumers find you/come to you — in another stark departure from traditional media campaigns, consumers do not want to feel that brands are ‘shouting’ messages at them. The perception is clearly that brands will use ‘intrusive’ and ‘interruptive’ advertising in social media.

10. Let consumers talk for you — brands achieve more kudos when consumers take the initiative and advocate them. The recent Toyota campaign, where real people talked about their stories on Facebook and were then featured in a television ad, is a great example of how a brand can build relationships by encouraging customers to participate in conversations, rather than by overt sales efforts.

To access a summary of the report, click here.

Notes to editors:

Research Methodology

This qualitative social media study used a purpose-built private social network to conduct in-depth discussions with hundreds of people aged 18-50 in nine countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, India, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. Respondents were segmented into two groups: ‘Moderates’ (lighter users of social media) and ‘Mavens’ (heavier, savvier users of social media).

About Millward Brown

Millward Brown is one of the world's leading research agencies and is expert in effective advertising, marketing communications, media and brand equity research. Through the use of an integrated suite of validated research solutions — both qualitative and quantitative — Millward Brown helps clients build strong brands and services. Millward Brown has more than 78 offices in 51 countries. Additional practices include Millward Brown's Global Media Practice (media effectiveness unit), The Neuroscience Practice (using neuroscience to enhance traditional research techniques), Millward Brown Optimor (focused on helping clients maximize the returns on their brand and marketing investments), Dynamic Logic (the world leader in digital marketing effectiveness) and Firefly Millward Brown (a global qualitative research business). Millward Brown is part of Kantar, WPP's insight, information and consultancy group.


For Millward Brown
Michelle Robertson, 646-279-5775

Release Summary

Global market research company Firefly Millward Brown presents findings from a recent qualitative social media study and offers 10 rules for corporations engaging with consumers through social media.


For Millward Brown
Michelle Robertson, 646-279-5775