With all of the attention marketers have been paying to social media, it’s always helpful to look and re-look at information that gives us clues as to how customers are actually interfacing with brands in the social sphere.
Statistics published in a just-released report titled Digital Brand Interactions Survey, based on research conducted by web content management company Kentico Software, gives us a reality check on just how [non-]essential social media actually is in the greater branding picture.
The Kentico research queried approximately 300 American consumers age 18 or older via an online survey administered in February 2014. Let’s start with the most basic finding: the degree to which consumers “like” or “follow” brands on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram:
- No brands followed on social media: ~40%
- 1 to 10 brands followed: ~39%
- 11 to 20 brands followed: ~7%
- 21 to 30 brands followed: ~6%
Considering how many different brands the typical consumer encounters in his or her daily life (dozens? … hundreds?), following ten or fewer brands on social media represents only a very small proportion of them.
Yet that’s exactly where four in five consumers are when it comes to social branding.
So … how do companies get into that rarefied group of brands that are, in fact, followed by consumers? Here’s what the Kentico survey discovered:
- Already interested in the brand and wanted to stay informed: ~40%
- Followed on social media to receive special offers: ~39%
- Followed because of a recommendation from a friend or family member: ~12%
- Didn’t really know the brand before, but wanted to learn more about it: ~8%
These results suggest that the notion that social branding is an easy way to attract new customers may be flawed. Instead, social branding is better-suited to deepening brand engagement with existing customers.
Money talks as well (discounts or other special offers) – and be sure to offer them often.
In another piece of evidence that points to social branding’s relatively weak ability to drive incremental sales … Kentico found that ~72% of its survey respondents “never” or “hardly ever” purchase a product after hearing about it on a social network.
An equal percentage of respondents have “never” or “hardly ever” had brand encounters online that altered their already-existing perception of those brands.
So it would seem that much of the “heat” generated by social branding may be adding up to very little “light.”
On the other hand, there is also some good news for brands in the social realm: The incidence of people “unliking” or “unfollowing” brands is quite low: Only about 5% of the survey respondents reported such actions.
When that does happen, it’s often because a brand has been publishing too many social posts – or the content of the posts themselves is uninteresting.
The biggest takeaway notion from the Kentico research is to remind us to maintain a degree of skepticism about the impact of social branding – and to understand that in most cases, social media activities are going to remain the “ornaments” on the marketing tree rather than be the “tree” itself.
In fact, that’s probably the case even more now — as consumers become bombarded with ever-more marketing messages from ever-more brands with every passing day.