Young Internet users may be more likely than others to hang out on social networks, but is it really the place to market to them? Not necessarily, according to joint research by ExactTarget and Ball State University.

by Helen Leggatt

Internet users, aged between 18 and 34, are more likely to be influenced by email messages and direct mail than they are marketing on social networks, found the joint research.

“It is too easy to assume that the media consumers choose for their own news, information and entertainment are, by default, the best media to use for marketing messages,” said Mike Bloxham, director, insight and research, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design.

“This is a dangerous assumption to make in a time when consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their level of control over their media experiences.”

The report, titled “Messaging Behaviors, Preferences and Personas,” looks at a variety of Internet users including wired consumers, young homemakers, retired consumers, college students, teens and established professionals.

Other key findings:

-20% of wired consumers have signed up to receive marketing communications via SMS, but they want these messages limited to urgent customer service issues.

-More than 50% of young homemakers use social networks and SMS during the day, but they prefer to be marketed to via direct mail and e-mail.

-College students consider SMS and social networks off-limits for marketers.

-Teens are more social network-oriented than any other group, but for marketing, they are more likely to respond to direct mail, followed by e-mail SMS and then social network sites.

The report can be downloaded free of charge (after registration) here.