Emarketer http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1006657

Social network ads can seem intrusive.

Responding young adults in the US said e-mail and direct mail were bigger influencers on their purchasing decisions than social networks, according to recently released data from an ExactTarget-sponsored survey conducted by the Ball State University Center for Media Design.

Mike Bloxham, research director at Ball State, noted in a statement that just because 18-to-34-year-olds like to spend time on social networks does not mean advertisers should try to reach them there.

“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,” Mr. Bloxham said.

The researchers noted that college students were particularly spam-savvy and believed private communications such as SMS and social networks were off-limits for marketers.

Students “are highly reachable, using more media than any previous consumer, probably,” according to Samantha Skey, formerly of youth marketing firm Alloy Media + Marketing, in an interview with eMarketer. “But they are also quite protective. Interrupting them during a conversation [online] or when they’re texting somebody—those ads that intrude on a social experience are really off-putting.”

Word-of-mouth is an ever-stronger way to market to college students. The tactic ranked as the most-useful type of advertising among college students surveyed by Harris Interactive for Alloy. Samples—always a bonus for students on a budget—ranked second.

Showing that students do still consider traditional media relevant, TV and magazine ads also ranked highly—higher, in fact, than online ads and sponsored Web applications.