Online marketers are not using social networks properly to promote their brands, according to a report from JupiterResearch.
The report, 'Branded Social Networking Pages: Best Practices for Successfully Engaging Users', found that half of advertiser-branded social networking pages in Europe have fewer than 1,000 friends.
The average branded social networking page, on sites such as MySpace or Facebook, has only 6,494 friends.
Despite social marketing's potential to engage users, many advertisers build branded social networking pages that broadcast content rather than invite users to interact, according to the report.
Most advertisers are reportedly using their social networking pages as they would typical online marketing microsites, rather than using the capabilities of the platform to increase consumer engagement.
However, JupiterResearch claims to have found a number of tactics that brands can use to make their social marketing more effective.
The research firm suggests that marketers should promote their pages with paid ads rather than rely on viral marketing to get the message out.
Advertisers are also advised to engage users on the their brand's page, with activities such as contests. Jupiter found that contests, on average, doubled the number of friends acquired by each branded page.
Nate Elliott, research director at JupiterResearch and lead author of the report, said: "Most advertisers simply don't know how to market properly within social networks.
"Too many marketers create dull, non-interactive pages inside social networks and wait for a viral marketing effect to bring users to their door.
"But our research clearly shows that ongoing promotion and advertising, as well as the use of even relatively simple forms of engagement, are vital to the success of branded social networking pages."
Jupiter also found that marketers must appeal to social networkers' love of multimedia to get noticed. Social Network users are twice as likely to visit a branded page focused on media content than a branded page focused on products, according to the report.
David Schatsky, president of JupiterResearch, said: "As online advertisers make increasingly large investments in social marketing and web 2.0, it's vital that they get the most for their money.
"By following the examples of what's worked for other marketers and listening to what consumers want -- such as original and entertaining multimedia content -- advertisers can greatly improve the effectiveness of their social marketing efforts."
Brands such as Marmite and Nike are performing well on Facebook. Marmite has rustled up 92,054 fans since it launched a branded presence on the site in February.
The group invites members to make suggestions on how Marmite "can be made even better" and start their own discussions around the brand.
Nike has 60,472 fans at the time of writing, while Nestle Rowntree's Smarties branded Facebook page has attracted just 517 fans since launching in March this year.
Dior, which lists various products on its branded Facebook page, has just 895 fans.
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