Earlier this month, ExactTarget released a marketing study titled Subscribers, Fans, & Followers: The Social Break-Up. This study came from a survey of U.S. consumers and sought to gain insight on why consumers end brand relationships and how they go about terminating these relationships. They also tried to study the impact that the social break-up has on consumers’ intent to do business with the brand in the future. They looked at how customers interact with e-mail, Facebook and Twitter and analyzed these social channels separately. I want focus on just the Facebook and Twitter parts in this post. Here are some insights they gained from this study:
Facebook usage habits and brand interactions:
- 73% of U.S. online consumers have created a profile on Facebook.
- 65% of U.S. online consumers are currently active on Facebook.
- 42% of U.S. online consumers (64% of those on Facebook) are “FANS” (have “liked” a company on Facebook).
- 55% of Facebook users have “liked” a company and then later decided they no longer wanted to see that company’s posts.
- 51% of FANS say they rarely or never visit a company’s page after “liking” them.
The report identified 4 categories of why consumers like brands on Facebook:
- Self-expression, identification with the brand, or public endorsement of the brand (e.g. I am so cocaine-chic I want everyone to know I ‘like’ American Apparel!).
- The opportunity to connect with like-minded consumers (e.g. I like Whole Foods and want to meet other people who are cool like me!).
- The ability to learn about and interact with the company behind the products (e.g. I ‘like’ Dell because I’m considering trying to get a job there and want to gain insight on what type of company they are).
- Desire to learn about products, stay updated on sales and promotions, and take advantage of exclusive offer (e.g. I ‘like’ Disneyland because I’m planning a trip there next year and want to see if they offer any special discounts or offers in the next few months).
A big challenge facing brands are the mixed signals coming from consumers’ expectations of what to expect from the brands that they ‘like’ on Facebook. After “liking” a company, 51% of consumers say they expect the company to send them marketing messages. And to the exact contrary, 40% say they don’t expect to receive marketing messages from the company. The remaining 9% don’t know what they should expect. Those numbers are enough to have companies scratching their collective heads and wondering – what do I do?
What’s also true is that different expectations can be expected depending on the age and gender of the consumer. Consumers who are 24 and younger are the least likely to expect marketing messages via Facebook (40%). However, those who are 35 and older are far more likely to expect marketing messages after becoming FANS (55%). In addition, women are more likely than men to expect marketing messages through Facebook. Only 44% of men equate “liking” a brand with permission to send marketing messages, while 55% of women make this connection. (The jury is still out on whether IBM Watson expects marketing messages from companies that it likes on Facebook – although it would likely filter out the messages incredibly fast if they weren’t in line with its plan for complete world domination.)
There really does not seem to be a perfect answer for brands when it comes to messaging. How much promotion is too much? How many updates are too much? These are all good questions – and I think aligning your social strategies with the expectation of the audience you have will be the best solution in the long run. For every user you are pleasing, there will be some who think the message is too frequent or too strong. It’s okay to realize you can’t please everyone and just try your best.
Why do Facebook users ‘Unlike’ brands?
Here is the breakdown on the reasons that Facebook consumers ‘unlike’ brands they’ve previously ‘liked’:
63% – Excessive postings—either the individual brand’s postings (44%) or in an attempt to cut down on overall marketing clutter (43%)
38% – The content became boring or repetitive.
26% – “Unliked” the brand after getting a one-time offer.
24% – The company didn’t offer enough deals
24% – Posts were too promotional.
17% – Postings were too chit-chatty.
Does an unlike equal a lost customer? No, not necessarily.
Interestingly enough, brands should not equate a customer ‘unliking’ their Facebook page with a loss in that consumer’s future business. According to the study, “A consumer’s decision to “unlike” a company has surprisingly little impact on the perceived likelihood that they will buy from that company in the future. In total, 63% of consumers said they were as likely or more likely to purchase something from a company after ending their Facebook relationship”.
Twitter usage habits and brand interactions:
- 17% of U.S. online consumers have created a Twitter account.
- 9% of U.S. online consumers are currently active on Twitter.
- 5% of U.S. online consumers (56% of those on Twitter) are FOLLOWERS (use Twitter and have “followed” at least one company).
- 71% of FOLLOWERS expect to receive marketing messages from companies through Twitter.
- 41% of Twitter users have “followed” a company on Twitter and then stopped following them later.
- 47% of those who created a Twitter account are no longer active on Twitter.
Why did Twitter consumers stop following brands?
- 52% – The content became repetitive or boring over time.
- 41% – My Tweet stream was becoming too crowded with marketing posts and I needed to get rid of some of them.
- 39% – The company posted too frequently.
- 27% – I only “followed” the company to take advantage of a one-time offer.
- 27% – They didn’t offer enough deals.
- 21% – Their Tweets were too promotional.
- 20% – The company’s Tweets were too chit-chatty—not focused on real value.
With Twitter, consumers are more willing and conditioned to see more status updates per day from the brands they follow vs. Facebook. However, like on Facebook they want to see fresh content, they don’t want the messages to be constantly marketing dominated, nor do they want too “chit-chatty” a tone to the majority of the messages.
Conclusions and Findings
After taking a thorough look at all the numbers in this study – it does seem clear that brands need to carefully weigh their message against their audiences specific expectations as it pertains to a specific social channel. Brands need to tailor a message that is engaging and proves that they are listening and really care about the voice of their consumers. They can promote, but they need to be careful not to over promote to the point where they lose followers and fans. Also, it’s important to realize that there is no one specific methodology that is going to work 100% of the time – for every user who loves your message tone, message frequency and offered deals there will be a user that thinks you post too much and are too promotional for them.
Brands would do well to spend the time and energy on a proper social media audit of their channels, as well as mentions and discussions in the social graph around their brand in general. At Mason Zimbler, where I am a social media analyst, we perform these thorough market sensing social media audits for brands that come to us looking for help in the social space. This audit is invaluable to us and our clients as it informs our social strategy – a strategy that would be based on pure guesses if the data from the audit wasn’t compiled first. Not every brand or company needs to spend a lot of money on an outside company like ours to do an audit for them – however one person, if not a team, should be assigned to looking at the social graph for brand mentions, online sentiment, competitors and identifying key influencers in their specific industry to set up a strategy of engagement with. A lot of these ideas are still vague to a lot of people, as much of what is going on in this space is still very new. However, with time I believe that these methods will become more and more common.
Check out the full report, Subscribers, Fans, & Followers: The Social Break-Up from ExactTarget here: http://www.exacttarget.com/Resources/SFF8.pdf