In today’s digital world, building a brand is no longer about dishing out ads; it is about having conversations. Brands need to engage their customers directly and build a following that will evangelize on their behalf. Needless to say, social media has become the go-to for facilitating such interaction: what better way to “get personal” with consumers than to catch them while they are interacting with their family and friends? It comes as no surprise that marketers are now striving to build brand loyalty through popular social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as through less known but rising channels like Tumblr and Pinterest. But the question remains: does targeting social media users truly increase brand loyalty? The answer, according to recent research, may not be the one most social media marketers would expect.
According to the National Technology Readiness Survey, consumers participate in a variety of activities using social media, as shown in Figure 1. Well over half of all social media users frequently read updates posted by those in their social networks, and many affirm that they regularly “like” and comment on these updates as well. While sharing content with peers and loved ones on social media is widespread, engaging directly with businesses or talking to connections about brand perceptions is less common. What is most interesting is that these two patterns of behaviors —namely, purely social interactions and interactions with or about brands—appear to be somewhat independent of one another. A deeper dive analysis of the data (Factor Analysis) reveals that social media users who interact extensively with their friends are not necessarily involved in brand conversations.
This split behavioral pattern presents social media marketers with a challenge as they try to get their brands noticed in the online social sphere. Targeting those who are socially involved but who do not have any track record of brand involvement is futile, as these individuals are unlikely to become “brand evangelists” overnight. Likewise, focusing efforts on those who are highly engaged with brands but who are not as well-connected could prove to be unproductive as any messaging they encounter is unlikely to spread far. The ultimate gain, then, lies in targeting those consumers who are at the intersection of these two dimensions. As shown in Figure 2, 31% of social media users fit this profile; they are both highly involved personally as well as active participants in brand-related discussions on social media.
Consumers who are engaged both socially and commercially are distinct from other social media users. They are more likely to hold full-time employment, they earn more money, are younger (median age 36, compared to 45 for all social media users), and are more likely to have children at home. They are also more receptive to cutting-edge technology, as measured by our proprietary Techqual™ index.
In social media marketing, it is not “strictly personal” or “strictly business”. The key is to identify and influence the select few who like to talk about products and services, and also actively engage with their personal network, giving them added leverage in the marketplace.