Brand strategy on social media needs a dose of consumer self-interest


There is evidence to suggest that when brand managers are steering their social media activities they need to operate in the shoes of their customers, with the view to satisfying their self interest. The motivation for a lot of consumers connecting to brands on social media is not ‘social’, rather it is what is in it for me.

These are the findings from New York based strategy consulting firm Vivaldi Partners, who towards the end of 2012 conducted research with 1,004 adults from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel. Participants were interviewed to understand the drivers that have them connect and disconnect from brands on social media.

The findings are interesting but also rather intuitive. Firstly, as a brand manager one needs to recognise that consumers only connect with a relatively small number of brands. About half of those who connect with brands do so with five or less brands. It is a great reminder that when brands are trying to connect via social media, they are using a medium where they need to compete with friends, families and work colleagues for attention. So one needs to ask how does your brand of tuna (or what ever your brand) compete with one’s best friend. It’s tough!

Secondly, the top reasons for connecting with brands on social networks are primarily personal and not social in nature. Specifically, eight of twelve reasons are self-interested motivations such as receiving a discount or getting a deal. Likewise people split with brands for the same reasons they follow brands. Some top reasons are:

There was no real value (22%), the content became repetitive or boring over time (19%), or the reason for connecting in the first place had passed eg only liked a page to get discounts/deals and now it is no longer useful (16%). The one thing consumers need less of in todays busy life is a feed of needless and usually boring information from a brand. Brand managers need to understand the cumulative impact of the information they put out. It may seem obvious, but start always by asking, why would my brand’s customers feel privileged or personally buoyed to receive the information one is wishing to share.

Social media is a rich powerful medium, but it needs to be managed diligently and intelligently, if it is going to nurture meaningful relationships with customers.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

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