Social media users not opposed to brand interactions, according to study

SAN FRANCISCO: More than 70% of social media users consider Facebook indispensable, while the majority of users could do without Twitter, according to a new study.

SAN FRANCISCO: More than 70% of social media users consider Facebook indispensable, while the majority of users could do without Twitter, according to a new study.

Facebook emerged as the clear social media leader in the survey with 75% of users ranking it as the most valuable social network. Yet its biggest competition is not from media darling Twitter, rather it remains longtime rival MySpace with 65% of users calling it the most valuable network. Only 12% rated Twitter as most valued and LinkedIn fell in the middle with 30%, according the survey.

The study, conducted by Anderson Analytics, surveyed 5,000 US social media users. It also found that most users aren't opposed to engaging with brands online. Although 35% want brands less involved on social networks, 20% wanted them more involved, and 45% were neutral to the idea.

“We work with a lot of companies that are frustrated because they don't know whether they have influence on social media or they think a lot of the conversations about brands are negative,” said Tom Anderson, managing partner for Anderson Analytics.

Even though some companies think social media users mostly complain about brands on these sites, the survey showed that this isn't necessarily the case, Anderson added. Fifty-two percent of users had become a fan/follower of a brand, 46% had said something positive about a brand, while only 23% claimed to have said something negative.

“Because people's identities are known on social media, they are less likely to be negative,” Anderson noted.

While Facebook and Twitter garner much media attention, the survey also showed that LinkedIn has a dedicated following and MySpace still generates considerable influence on Generation Y, he noted. For example, only 29% of respondents said they could “probably do without” Facebook and LinkedIn, but 43% said the same about Twitter and 35% about MySpace.

Donna Sokolsky, owner of SparkPR, said this study reiterates that companies shouldn't neglect social networks sites like its former client MySpace.

“I think MySpace's value to advertisers and brands can't be underscored enough,” she said. “PR absolutely needs to integrate and prioritize MySpace into its communications strategy.”

She added while Twitter offers room for experimentation, for some PR purposes it is “not yet mainstream enough.”

But Anderson noted that while Twitter users had the smallest following, its base includes the most active and vocal social networkers. Additionally, more than 50% of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn users said they were growing their site usage, compared with 40% of MySpace users.

According to the survey, Facebook has 78 million regular users, defined as those logging on at least once a month, followed by MySpace (67 million), Twitter (17 million) and LinkedIn (11 million). MySpace has the youngest user group, with an average age of 29, while LinkedIn's audience is the oldest, 36 on average, the survey found. The average age of Facebook users was 34; for Twitter, it was 33.

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