by Kathleen 

ADOTAS – Want to target those 18 to 34 year olds? Think twice before blanketing social networks with your message. According to a new study from Ball State University and ExactTarget, 18 to 34 year olds prefer (and are more influenced by) email and direct mail than marketing messages on social sites.

“One of the key findings in this research is that 18- to 34-year-olds claim they are more likely to be influenced to make purchases based on e-mail marketing messages and direct mail than from marketing messages on social networks,” said Mike Bloxham, director, insight and research, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design. “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. 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.”

Other key findings from the study:

  • 20 percent of Wired consumers have subscribed for marketing communications via SMS, more so than any other group, but they want to receive texts only for urgent customer service issues such as financial alerts or travel updates.
  • More than 50 percent of Young Homemakers use social networks and SMS during the day, but direct mail and e-mail are their two preferred marketing channels.
  •  81 percent of Retired consumers have purchased online and 94 percent have been influenced by some form of direct marketing to make a purchase.
  • College Students are very spam-savvy and believe private communication channels such as SMS and social networks are off limits for marketers.
  • Teens use social networking more than any other group but are more likely to make a purchase from direct mail, followed by e-mail, SMS and social network sites.
  • Women are more likely than the men in the Established Professionals group to use new digital media channels such as IM, SMS and social networking to communicate with friends and family, but men and women alike shop online with 92 percent of the consumers in this group having made an online purchase.

One thing to keep in mind: ExactTarget, one of the study’s backers, is an email marketing company, so they have a horse in the race.