Consumers 18 to 34 report they are more likely to respond to an e-mail marketing message or direct mail than to one they get through a social network, according to a joint research project by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design and e-mail service provider ExactTarget.

“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,” Ball State CMD director of insight and research Mike Bloxham said in a statement. “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 study combined observed daily media use by 350 participants studied by CMD and segmented afterwards into seven consumer “personas,” with data from the Channel Preference Surveys done by Indianapolis-based ExactTarget.

The study finds that “Wired” consumers—mostly young males 18-34, employed and educated more than average—subscribe more often than any other group for SMS text messages from marketers (20% of the group). However, they say they want those restricted to urgent customer service messages such as financial alerts or travel updates.

For communications that are not time-critical—account updates, opt-in promotions and surveys—they prefer e-mail. Social networks don’t influence them to respond, with one exception: The “wired” bunch will take part in sweepstakes they see promoted on social sites.

The “Young Homemakers” group identified in the study—generally female and 18-34—participate actively in new media channels. Fifty-four percent take part in social networks, and 53% said they use text messaging. But they don’t want marketers reaching them through these channels. The study found that 72% of the group has been influenced to buy something by a direct mail piece, while 53% have bought because of e-mail they received.

Among the “College Student” crowd studied, 64% said they regularly used social networks—twice as many as the other groups. They were also 22% more likely to use instant messaging and 27% more likely to use SMS. But the group also reported high degrees of wariness about protecting those personal channels from spam and misuse by marketers, the report found. Instead, 55% of the group said they had been influenced to buy by a direct mailing, while 50% said they had responded to an e-mail offer or promotion.

Teens 15 to 17 told researchers they were most favorably disposed toward text-based marketing and promotional messages coming through social networks. But the study found that didn’t mean they turned off to other marketing channels. Forty-two percent said they had bought based on an e-mail marketing message—lower than the 68% average for all other groups, but still significant. Even more said they had acted on an offer received via direct mail. By comparison, only 13% made a purchase from a text message, and 12% bought as a result of being marketed to through a social networking site.