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Why youngsters aren’t ready to swap the shopping mall for Facebook
Claire | August 24, 2012
It’s one of the great truisms of marketing in the digital age – young people spend hours and hours on the internet, ergo the way to their wallets is via the sites they like to use most.
But the findings of a new study into the consumer behaviour of young people suggest such stratospheric levels of cynicism about online marketing among the Facebook generation that the industry could find itself having to tear up the manual.
As reported by Marketing Week, youth marketing agency The Beans Group quizzed 16-24-year-olds about their online browsing, communication and spending habits. Although the study found that 97 per cent of respondents from the age group used Facebook, a staggering 91 per cent said they had no interest in making purchases directly through the social media site.
Nearly half said they were concerned with online shopping in general, citing security as their main worry.
The findings deal a blow to a digital marketing industry which has increasingly focused on social media as the next great frontier in the battle to tap into the expendable income of youth. On the face of it, the thinking seems obvious – you will grab the attention of people who spend a lot of time online by creating exclusive offers which can be accessed for convenience sake through the very sites they frequent.
To be fair to the digital marketing community, they are not the only ones who have been keen to plug so-called ‘f-commerce’. Facebook itself has long been looking to create alternative sources of income aside from display advertising, on which it depends heavily. Driving sales through its site, be it for games or apps or other products, is attractive to Facebook because of the commission it can take on every sale.
The social media giant has also just announced a new ‘sponsored ad’ format which will allow brands’ messages to appear in the news feed of users regardless of whether they are friends or followers of the brand or not.
The Beans Group survey gives reasons to think that Facebook may just be on a collision course with its core users. Just under half of respondents said they were already irritated by ‘irrelevant’ brand messages appearing on their social media sites, with a similar proportion saying they were put off by obvious attempts to ‘look cool’. As far as pushing direct sales through Facebook go, young people who have grown up with the internet are highly sensitive to the risks of spam and malicious links, and understandably develop an instinctive ‘don’t-go-their’ response to anything that does not come from what they consider to be a trusted and known source.
Facebook, and the digital marketing industry at large, would do well to learn the lessons of the great Myspace exodus post-Rupert Murdoch before it goes too far down the commercialization route. People want social media to play a defined role in their life, and if they do want to buy something online, well, there’s an entire industry of booming e-commerce sites out there. By treating users like digital infants who need to have their behaviours changed, the gurus and the svengalis risk being deemed not interesting, relevant, funny or cool enough to be worth talking to in the social media stratosphere.
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