The role that social media plays in modern life has recently been a topic of interest as people try to navigate the positive and negative impact this revolutionary technology has had on society. A recent study sponsored by Intent Labs, a collaboration between Northwestern University and Performics, is shedding new light on consumer attitudes towards social media.
The social media study was designed to gauge consumer sentiment about the five largest social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Researchers compared attitudes about these social media platforms by using four markers to create a Digital Satisfaction Index (DSI). The four areas measured for the DSI were trust, privacy, social and utility.
As stories about social media being used as a tool to mislead and defraud fill the news, consumers have become understandably more concerned about sharing personal information on social media platforms. Researchers found that consumer preferences in this area were somewhat conflicting. While many people expressed dissatisfaction with the practice of using past purchases to target them with advertising, they also enjoyed having experiences customized based on their preferences.
The study found that while consumer use of social media platforms remains robust, their faith in the accuracy of information presented on social media has been diminished. While some of the platforms that have been involved in recent controversies, such as Facebook or Twitter, have taken a hit when it comes to privacy and utility with some consumers, this does not always extend to social media as a whole. The study noted consumer satisfaction with Instagram, which many consumers were unaware was owned by Facebook, remains much higher than their parent company.
Researchers also found gender differences, with men reporting that they are much more distrustful of information they read online than women are. The study found that while women still use social media more frequently than men, there was a growing comfort among male study participants with making purchases online and with recommendations gleaned via social media. While researchers found no clear trends that were applicable across genders or social media platforms in terms of ads featuring graphics versus video ads, the types of products purchased most frequently on social media were identified as clothing and edibles.
As social media platforms continue to solidify their essential role in everyday life, organizations will continue to seek ways to use their networking capability to draw consumers to their brands. For this reason, researchers will continue to seek ways to gauge consumer preferences so that the power of social media can be harnessed in less intrusive and more intuitive ways moving forward.