A survey of 19 to 26-year-olds, conducted in China, Singapore and the U.S. by JWT Singapore, found that over 50% of young adults find it too time consuming to keep up with all their social media commitments, and concede the time they spend on social networking sites (SNS) has had a negative impact on their job or studies. Nearly half feel more stressed by their social media commitments now compared to a year ago – and say that managing these commitments has become a chore. The survey was conducted from February 1 and February 8, 2012, by JWT Singapore using SONAR, JWT’s proprietary online research tool. JWT surveyed a total of 900 young adults, aged 18 to 26, including 300 from China, 300 from Singapore and 300 from the U.S. Half the sample was employed and half were students. DMA got Angus Fraser, Managing Director of JWT Singapore to talk about what this mounting SNS stress can mean for the future of social media, and brands who depend on social media for connecting with the audience.
Why do you see this build up of social media stress among young adults in China and Singapore?
Asian consumers have always been avid adopters of technology. At the same time, there’s a lot of pressure in many Asian cultures to get the right job, marry the right partner and achieve certain milestones. So you have a lot of young adults who love to be online, and at the same time, face a lot of social pressure to keep pace, and keep up appearances. Social media, meanwhile, shows the world exactly where you are, who you’re with, what you’ve achieved and how you look. Young adults in Asia are now more under the microscope than ever before, in a highly competitive economy and an often competitive culture. That might lead to certain levels of social media stress.
Is this stress in anyway driving them away from social networking sites?
No. Usage rates are high in Asia and, by some measures, higher than the West. Singaporeans, for example, receive the most notifications and respond the fastest of the three markets we studied in our recent survey. We also see very high usage among young adults across their daily routine. Singaporeans are more likely than anyone in these three markets to visit social media sites while they are out for dinner with friends – or in class. Young adults in Asia can’t seem to get enough of it. It’s interesting that the Singaporeans were notably less stressed than young adults in China. Maybe they are more able to take it all less seriously. Remember, social media started out as a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends. It could be that more young adults figure out a way to keep that in mind, rather than exiting the social media scene altogether.
Do you think this SNS stress among young adults can impact a brand’s social media planning? How do you think brands can leverage on their social media connect with their users and consumers without creating SNS fatigue in the user?
Social networking started out as something fun and engaging. Brands can help bring some of the fun back to social networks by providing engaging, entertaining content. The sense of obligation, and stress, that social network members feel is more about keeping up appearances – and keeping up with their friend’s lives. They feel they have to ‘like’ their friend’s vacation photos or party shots, or else they’ll appear rude. So they spend all this time combing through endless photo albums to prove they care. Many people visit social networking sites as a break – brands can help make that break fun providing something engaging and interactive to do when they are online.
Some of the key lessons from this survey that brands need to take into account?
Brands need to up their game when it comes to engaging consumers on social media. The games, apps and activities brands create for social networks should be easy to get involved in. If we create content, it should be useful or fun, and easy to engage with – not something complex that takes a lot of time to interact with. The Social Break widget we made for Kit Kat is a great example. It’s a simple tool that’s easy to use – and does something quite useful: helping young adults take a break while keeping up with their social media obligations. It’s irreverent, a little tongue-in-cheek, and allows consumers to interact with the brand in a fun, engaging way.
What’s your agency’s stand on social media networking post this survey? Do you think this SNS fatigue can eventually impact online social networking tendencies among users?
JWT Singapore’s view on social media hasn’t changed. We still see social media an extremely important for the future of brands. It’s a compelling way to directly to engage with the audience, which is unlike other channels. Advertising agencies need to treat this less as marketing tool, and more as an opportunity to create content that’s meaningful to specific audiences.
How do you plan to use this survey to the best advantage when planning for your clients’ social media strategies?
We tailor our approach depending on what client we are dealing with, and work out what strategy is best for each client for a particular audience. This survey dealt with a particular age group. The findings are actually not that surprising to anyone who uses or studies social media. We can see through our own experiences that new kinds of social obligations have cropped up as we become more connected through social media. Again, we as marketers need to come up with social media strategies that engage and excite consumers, not add to their already-long list of social media ‘to-do’s’.