Good news if your restaurant has been slow to adopt the latest social media marketing strategies. Although your customers may use Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to communicate with their friends, that’s not necessarily how they want to engage with businesses like yours. In fact, better results are likely if you send offers by email instead.
That’s the upshot of marketing company ExactTarget’s 2012 Channel Preference Survey. The study quizzed 1,481 respondents about their overall Internet usage, devices owned, personal communication habits, permission granting protocols and purchasing behaviors. ExactTarget offers a wide range of email, mobile and social media marketing services, so it had no axe to grind for any particular marketing channel.
The key finding: “Just because consumers embrace a channel for personal communications doesn’t mean that they want to receive direct marketing messages from your brand via that channel. Absent an invitation from consumers to engage through social channels, marketers should focus their efforts on optimizing communications through channels where consumers do want to hear from them.”
Which ones are those? Here’s how study participants overall responded when asked about their preferred channel for receiving permission-based promotional messages (i.e., “promotional messages from companies whom I have granted permission to send me ongoing information”):
• Email—77 percent
• Direct mail (letters, catalogs, postcards, etc.)—9 percent
• Text messaging on a cell phone—5 percent
• Facebook—4 percent
• Telephone—2 percent
• Twitter—1 percent
• Mobile app—1 percent
• LinkedIn—0 percent
At first glance, this seems like the response you’d get if you asked a lot of middle-aged or older people about their communication preferences. But the ExactTarget study queried a broad and balanced spectrum of age groups, starting at 15-17 and topping out at 65-plus.
On this particular question, even the social media-savvy younger age groups said they much preferred email. The email preference score for ages 18-24 was 74 percent, the 25-34 cohort came in at 75 percent, and 81 percent of 35 to 44-year-olds said they preferred email. The only social media channel other than email to reach double-digits for any age group was text messaging on a cell phone, preferred by 10 percent of respondents ages 15-17.
ExactTarget then asked these same age groups which channels they use for personal written communications. The preferences here were much different:
• Email—45 percent
• Text messages— 36 percent
• Posting messages on Facebook—12 percent
• Direct mail (letters, catalogs, postcards, etc.)—2 percent
• Instant messaging—2 percent
• Messaging app on a cell phone–2 percent
• Posting messages on Google+—1 percent
• Posting messages via personal websites or blogs—1 percent
• Posting messages on Twitter—0 percent
A breakdown of age-group variations shows that email use skews older, while text messaging dominates among the younger age groups. Sixty-four percent of those ages 15-17 rely on text messaging, as do 55 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds.
The most surprising result was the weak showing of Twitter, used by only a relative handful of participants.
The Twitter result stood out because ExactTarget separately asked survey respondents about their overall social media use, not just how they send personal written communications and how they prefer to receive permission-based promotional messages. In answer to this question, fourteen percent of all respondents said they used Twitter in some way daily, six percent weekly and nine percent less than weekly. This discrepancy suggests that many use the service to follow the Twitter feeds of others rather than maintain one of their own. Overall, 71 percent of respondents said they never use Twitter.
In contrast, fifty-seven percent of survey respondents said they use Facebook and text messaging daily, while 91 percent send and receive email messages each day.
Only one percent of the survey sample said they never use email; no wonder it wound up as the marketing message channel of choice among recipients. If your social media marketing is confined to email, this study is suggesting you may not be missing out on much.