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Companies that rely on social media to gauge consumer attitudes about sweeteners and other hot topics might want to reconsider their strategies, as new research finds that the majority of these comments and posts are actually coming from bots, paid posters or the uninterested.
Berlin, N.H.-based KDPaine & Partners has released an in-depth study of a year’s worth of social media conversation about three of today’s most controversial topics: high-fructose corn syrup, GMO foods and vaccinations. The research examined almost 300,000 tweets and responses from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and forums to determine the nature of the authors and conversations.
Here are the basic findings:
- Sixty-four percent of posts were from individuals who posted only once or twice on the topic, with little conversation or discussion.
- Six percent of posts were from very frequent posters, that are usually bots and pay-per-clickers who post about popular topics in order to drive traffic to their sites. Many of them are purveyors of alternative solutions or competing products.
- The most authentic conversations took place among medium-volume posters, who posted primarily on forums and personal blogs. They were heavily engaged in specific activities, such as body-building or organic farming, and frequently had lively and informed discussions about the topics in these forums.
At the end of the day, social media conversations are just one small part of the bigger consumer marketing pie, according to Katie Paine, chairman of KDPaine & Partners, and chief marketing officer at its Dubai-based parent company, News Group International.
“Ninety percent of the conversation and influence still happens offline,” Paine told TechTarget in a published report. “[Social networks] are not a substitute for what people are saying sitting in a bar or at the soccer field.”
As such, companies are smart to investigate an array of consumer attitude studies -- as well as hard data -- before making decisions about new products, product reformulations and the like.