Marketers should look beyond their own target market and consider their consumers’ social media audiences’ potential reaction to their online campaigns, or risk falling engagement, according to new research.

When promoting brands with risqué or challenging connotations that may be viewed as undesirable by or cause offence to certain members of their Facebook followers’ audience, including parents or employers, marketers need to think twice about asking followers to share, like or sign up.

Researchers from University of Edinburgh Business School, and Universities of Bath and Birmingham surveyed 400 Facebook users. They found 25% would be extremely worried about their employer or parents seeing them share or like a sexually suggestive Durex ad. Three-quarters (75%) said they would be very unlikely to share the ad or like the brand’s Facebook page.

In comparison, less than 1% of those asked said they would be extremely worried about their employer or parent share or like a Coca-Cola ad, which carried more neutral messaging

The research suggests social media users’ willingness to engage with provocative content can be affected by their relationship with people in their diverse network they feel they have to portray a positive image to.
It also has implications for Facebook’s site designers aiming to maximise brand engagement, who may need to consider new privacy settings or options for ‘secret likes’.

Dr. Ben Marder, lecturer in marketing at University of Edinburgh Business School, led the study. He said: “We know how people present themselves online can be very important to them, and largely determined by the social media friends they have.

“In the same way they might avoid pictures of them appearing drunk, or posting offensive comments for fear of being embarrassed or judged by their bosses or grans, Facebook users are also less likely to like or share brand content that could cause offence.

“Social media provides a novel environment for showing off brand connections. But whereas in real life people carefully select which brand are best to show off their appreciation for and to whom, on social media everyone can see what you like at once”.


By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine

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