MARKET | Jan 17, 2019

Social networks and data transfer: is there a crisis?

A study reveals the complicated relationship for consumers between personalized services and data transfer

Information, purchase decisions, opinions on politics, economics, society. But also the school to choose for one’s children, the family restaurant or the best yoga course in the neighborhood.  Social networks are not just a place for those who have lots of time on their hands. On the contrary, they are a space where people “live a life in which the dynamics of communication are profoundly different from the past, says Stefano Epifani President of Digital Transformation Institute A change in which there are certainly positive aspects but also many negative ones”.

Social Network: reliable data, yes or no?

The way social networks have changed our lives is as evident as the lights and shadows it brings with it. This is what users stated in the study Retail Transformation, carried out by the Digital Transformation Institute and the CFMT in collaboration with SWG and Assintel: “while social networks convey a great deal of information quickly and make it possible to choose with more awareness and speed, at the same time they can be unreliable and disorienting”.

In fact, 84% claim to be able to acquire information on a product or service much more simply than in the past thanks to social networks; 62% say they help them to be more aware of what they are buying and 62% think they can count on influential users who, by talking about products to buy, make it possible to acquire information. Therefore, social networks are increasingly at the center of the entire process of purchasing a product/service, from the information acquired in the initial phase, the one in which a general idea is formed, through the moments of deciding and purchasing, up to the after-sales phase, when people express their opinion on what they have purchased.

Users do not stake their lives on the reliability of the information collected on social networks: on the one hand, in 75% of cases, they say that, despite false reviews, Facebook & Co. allow us to gain a reliable idea of the quality of a seller and its products, and in 70% of cases that the profiles and pages opened by the sellers are useful for assessing the quality of the offer and the services connected to it; on the other hand, 75% of those interviewed say that the false reviews are a reality that is still largely unrestrained and that these make the data acquired unreliable and the collection of information particularly complex.

Moreover, 69% of users interviewed consider the activity of sellers on social networks annoying, and 63% consider the excess of information available disorienting, in both the information gathering and the decision-making phase. The same distrust is reserved for influencers: 68% of users believe that bloggers write reviews piloted by companies, therefore not very reliable.

What is the relationship between social networks and privacy?

Tools such as Facebook and its followers call for deep reflection on the subject of privacy, understood as property of user data, possibility of control or conditioning  In fact, 77% of respondents do not appreciate the use social networks make of personal data, to the extent of considering the issue a very or sufficiently serious problem. At the same time, 52% of users would give up their data in exchange for receiving personalized information aimed at their tastes and needs and 50% who, between protection of privacy and receiving discounts on the basis of their personal data, prefer the first option. 

How are companies moving?

Users make it clear: 72% believe in the advantage that integration of online and offline sales channels offers the customer, compared with 62% of companies that have integrated their processes and manage sales on different channels very well. However, companies are indeed present on social networks but in 61% of cases their presence is not integrated with customer support, neither online nor at the point of sale.

ICT companies involved in the study believe that 46% of business customers use social networks very much or sufficiently, with 52% ready to invest in order to use them in the future. The degree of complexity of integration of social digital channels is considered to be particularly complex in quality control (62%), accounting and management control (60%), design, research and development (56%) and the production of products and provision of services (55%).

Yet the possibilities that are open to companies are very broad and the latter, explains  Stefano Epifani, “cannot afford to stay out of this change, on pain of the risk of literally exiting the market. While social network sites like Facebook represent new squares, new meeting places and new tools for building opinion and consensus, it is clear that these squares have to be guarded, by understanding their dynamics and how these dynamics impact on organizational and business processes, on communication, on marketing and on services. “Because,” he continues, “while it is certain that these new contexts pose new challenges for companies, it is equally certain that not seizing the opportunities of such contexts only increases the risk of being victims of the threats that, likewise, these tools carry with them”.

Stefania Farsagli