The single main reason people start following brands online

Brand interactions -consumers seek to decide whether to engage with brandsRecently I talked about a study by Boston-based Cone that shows how scarce and precious brand loyalty on social media really is. Cone found that people on average only followed 4.6 brands on so-called “new media” and, more importantly, that it’s not easy to get a loyal “follower” or “fan”, and certainly to keep him.

The survey clearly showed how today’s consumer is really an omnichannel consumer and that people use a mix of media to interact and connect – directly or indirectly – with businesses.

These findings are not shocking. Anyone with some common sense knows this and, let’s face it, the focus on social media and thus channels is a very limited and blinding one that overemphasizes the “carrier” and underestimates the content (the story or message) but most of all the consumer (the communicator).

One of the most interesting findings of the survey, however, is that the reasons why people consider following brands in the initial phase of building a “connection” over these so-called “new media” and specifically social media, are very down-to-earth and have little to do with emotional connections, sharing, etc.

Offers, discounts and promotions beat love

By far the most important reason to start following a brand, Cone found, with a whopping 77% of respondents, were…incentives. Indeed: discounts, freebies and promotions.

Obviously, once the “connection” is established, other reasons keep people engaged as well and incentives are not the only reasons why people “follow” brands but it surely shows that “a good deal” and thus promotions are still doing very well, thank you.

One always needs to be careful with surveys but this finding is confirmed by other companies. In its ‘brand interaction study’, US-based digital agency Beyond found that the top reason why people “would possibly follow a brand in social media” is “to find offers and discounts”.

However, this only goes for 42% of UK and US respondents. That’s quite a difference with Cone’s 77% and it’s not the only difference. The Cone survey found that being helped and customer service rank second to promotions as reasons to follow, while Beyond found it’s “love of the product”. However, note that Cone also looked at other “new media” such as mobile channels and online games.

Surveys use different methodologies, have other scopes and often show different results but one thing is clear: discounts and promotions seem to rule in getting consumers connected to brands.

The reasons? Maybe brands don’t provide enough value. Maybe people are not that “social”? Or maybe we don’t see that social media are in fact regarded by consumers as very personal and less “open” and “connected”. Here are some other numbers to chew on: people mostly share news about a family member or friends (81%), 54% share coupons and discounts, that’s even slightly more than the percentage of people sharing news and blog posts.