RIT Research Finds Unfavorable Perceptions of Advertisers in Online Social Networks

Two professors explore how students react to ads on Facebook and MySpace

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Traditional mass media advertising of pushing ads doesn’t work.

Take the advice from Rochester Institute of Technology professors Neil Hair, assistant professor of marketing in RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business, and Susan Barnes, professor of communication in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts.

Hair and Barnes reveal the findings of their SNADS (Social Networking ADS) survey (completed in May 2007) which tapped a pool of more than 450 RIT undergraduate and graduate students (ages 18 to 26, and 26 and up).

“There was a strong degree of skepticism and the individuals in the survey found the ads intrusive, deceptive and lacking credibility,” the RIT professors explain. “Thinking of advertising in online social networks? Then think again.”

The SNADS study reveals:

  • Advertising in these spaces can actually do more harm than good
  • Skeptical users are actually repulsed by online advertising as it stands; targeting on the basis of individual preferences is unlikely to have a major impact on perceptions
  • There is no quick fix for advertisers and they need to tread warily in the new world of online social networks
  • The SNAD study also notes the importance of embedding users' self image in the success of advertising messages. Increasingly the most effective means of getting a commercial message across is in the self-branding of the individual.

    According to Barnes, “Users are smart. They are the most engaged with advertising that supports content creation and self-identity. Just pushing advertising at Internet users is probably not going to work.”

    Hair says, “Ultimately, this is bad news for online advertisers, and our survey shows the traditional way of sending out advertisements through mass media doesn’t work. Advertisers need to be more creative if their messages are to succeed.”

    MEDIA NOTE: Professors Neil Hair and Susan Barnes are available to discus the latest trends in online social networking and the recent advertising blitz of personal accounts on Facebook and MySpace. Hair can be reached at (585)475-6322 or neilhair@hotmail.com; Barnes at (585)475-4695 or sbbgpt@rit.edu.

    Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging technology, fine and applied arts, and education of the deaf. More than 15,800 full and part-time students are enrolled in RIT’s 340-career-oreinted and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

    One of eight colleges at RIT, the E. Philip Saunders College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB International) and enrolls more than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students. In fall 2007, the college created an academic major for incoming students in its newly established Center for Consumer Financial Services.