Why people follow brands on social media – insights for social marketers

I was watching a video by one of Microsoft UK’s top digital marketing strategists (you can too, it’s available on YouTube, courtesy of Digital Surrey). In it, he shows research about why people follow brands on social media. It’s very insightful.

Before you look at it, ask yourself this: why do you (or would you) connect with a brand in a social media space (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc)? Marketers attempting to create a digital strategy would do well to try and establish why their customers (and potential customers) would connect with them in the digital social space. Let’s not forget that as social media slowly starts coming of age, people are beginning to learn how to use it more effectively as part of their “normal” lives. Only the geeks and public figures are in competitions for “the most followers” – most people are using social media to do precisely what it was designed for: to enhance and augment their real world social interactions and relationships.

So, why would people follows brands on social media?

Microsoft’s research suggests the following reasons:

  • To get discounts – 66%
  • To participate in contests – 48%
  • To follow interesting content – 47%
  • To connect with customer service – 30%
  • The “interesting content” one is interesting. No further details were provided, but I am guessing the majority of these respondents were looking for “entertaining” content (especially in YouTube), rather than mind expanding content. But maybe that depends on the brand.

    I’d be interested to know how many people connected in order to associate themselves with the brand. This would be especially true of Facebook’s “Like” button and LinkedIn’s groups. This is where sharing online is meant to say something about yourself. This is best illustrated by people who specifically associate themselves with causes or political parties, for example.

    When asked why people shared things online, they gave the following reasons:

  • To bring valuable content to others
  • To define ourselves to others
  • To grow and nourish our relationships
  • Self-fulfillment
  • To support causes
  • So, as you plan your digital social strategy for 2012, the starting point must be to find out what would cause your customers to connect with your brand, and focus in on providing content that feeds that reason. But maybe that won’t lead to sales for your brand. Or maybe you need some creativity to turn that connect into action that benefits your company.

    The danger in 2012 is that you just do a “social campaign” without knowing what is possible for you to achieve in this space based on your customer’s needs and wants. This is basic marketing 101, but too many of our clients seem to be ignoring this basic starting point. We need to get beyond the hype of social media in 2012!

    What are you planning to do in 2012, and why do you think people will connect to your brand?

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