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Businesses may be wasting time and money trying to reach consumers who resent brands intruding on their social networking spaces: Fully 60% of socially networked Americans say they don't want to engage with brands via social media, according to the Digital Life study by TNS, a Kantar company.

The 60-country study found that people living in developed markets* are the least likely to welcome communications from brands via social channels, whereas those in developing markets** are more open to brand communications. For example, among surveyed consumers who use social networks: 

  • 57% in developed markets say they don't want to engage with brands via social media; that number rises to 61% in the UK.
  • Only 33% of Colombians and 37% of Mexicans say they don't want to be bothered by brands via social networks.

Below, additional findings from TNS Global's Digital Life survey. 

The study also revealed consumers' nuanced attitudes toward interactions with brands:  

  • 54% of socially networked people say social networks are a good place to learn about products.
  • 61% of online consumers who engage with brands online do so because of a promotion or to receive a special offer.
  • 25% of socially networked people in developed markets view social networks as a place to buy products. That number rises to 48% across fast-growth markets and 59% in India.

People Engage Online to Give Advice

Nearly one-half (47%) of Internet users worldwide post comments online about brands, but that number varies by country. For example, 74% of Chinese consumers comment online, compared with 32% of American consumers. 

Among the 32% that engages online with brands here in the US, most (39%) say they are motivated by helping others, whereas 31% simply want to share their thoughts and 18% want to praise a brand.


Some 12% of active commenters post comments online primarily to complain.


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Trust in Comments

Not surprisingly, comments written by friends are trusted more than those written by strangers.

Among consumers who read friends' online comments, 61% say they trust the comments, whereas only 41% trust comments from strangers:


Other findings: 

  • Asian consumers lead in mobile: 34% of mobile Internet users in China and South Korea shop via mobile phone; only 2% do so in Egypt.
  • Online shopping: Asian consumers are also lead in the adoption of group buying: 46% of digital consumers in China already use group buying tools. In Europe, use of group-buying is lower, falling to 6% in Sweden and Finland. 

*Developed markets: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, UK, and US.

** Fast growth markets: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Egypt, Estonia, Ghana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

TNS has made some of the key findings from this study available to the public via interactive data visualization.

About the data: Findings from TNS's Digital Life Study was conducted online, in-person, and via phone in July and August 2011 among some 72,000 consumers in 60 countries. 

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