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Today Facebook was revealed by Hitwise to be America's most popular website. And considering how many brands have boosted sales with successful social media, you have to hope that social has gotten past the barrier of engaging frivolity for most brands.

But for those that still need convincing, a new study has found that consumers are twice as likely to purchase products from brands they follow on Facebook or Twitter.

How can your brand start getting in on those sales figures? Make sure you're giving customers what they're looking for in social.

The new study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that people are 67% more likely to purchase products from brands they follow on Twitter and 51% more likely to do so if they follow a brand on Facebook.

The companies surveyed over 1500 consumers, and found that 60% of people on Facebook and 79% on Twitter are more likely to recommend a brand after becoming a fan or follower of it. But for brands trying to engage consumers, it's important to see what value consumers are getting from these mediums.

The most popular reason people follow brands in social media is to receive discounts. But there were also many people who responded that they follow as a customer of the brand and to show their support of it. On Twitter, that reason was less popular. Only 2% of respondents followed a brand to show their support. More often, they are looking for discounts, new information and exclusive content.

That makes a lot of sense, as Facebook's fan ability is more geared toward letting users express their appreciation for something. But if brands are offering services and exclusive benefits in these spaces, they're going to get more engaged and interested consumers. Acquiring followers and fans is not as important as keeping them involved with the brand. And often, if engagement is lacking, consumers will unfollow the stream.

Josh Mendelsohn, a vice president at Chadwick Martin Bailey, says that “companies not actively engaging are missing a huge opportunity and are saying something to consumers – intentionally or unintentionally- about how willing they are to engage on consumers’ terms.”

But it's just as important to say the right things in social media. If people think they're getting something back from keeping tabs on their favorite brands, they're more likely to keep following — and shopping — with them.

Image: Chadwick Martin Bailey

UPDATE: The headline on this post has been changed.

Meghan Keane

Published 16 March, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

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Sam Andrews, Creative Director at Snow Valley

So this is further evidence that NOW is the time to try and develop 3rd party social networks as new retail channels, as I argue here. If we can create simple, seamless shopping experiences and overcome concerns of trust/security with embedded e-commerce, then there's no reason that your "offering services and exclusive benefits in these spaces, they're going to get more engaged and interested consumers" can't equate directly to in-platform sales for retailers offering exclusive products or discounts.

over 6 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

I'm not saying that the central theme of having to engage customer more effectively in Social is wrong, but if I'd written this study I'd have to hand back my Statistician card for making a conclusion on an implied causality. It's like saying if people buy more ice creams, it'll become summer.

The more interesting thing to know is, what percentage of people become followers, and shop with brands, having not shopped with brands previously or had exposure to those brands outside of social media? Why did these people become followers in the first place? Surely they already had a higher level of engagement to make that step? 

over 6 years ago

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Mat Morrison

You state that "consumers are twice as likely to purchase products from brands they follow on Facebook or Twitter" -- this is somewhat wooly. The implied comparison is either (a) non-followers, or (b) brands they don't follow. Not the case.

In fact, as you go on to state, 50% of people say that they are more likely to buy "since becoming a fan." My arithmetic isn't all that strong; can someone explain to me how 50% of people agreeing that they are an unspecified amount more likely to buy product x since becoming a fan can be simplified to "twice as likely to buy"?

I'm rarely a fan of this kind of testing: it seems to me that the study carefully confuses correlation with causation. If "The most popular reason people follow brands in social media is to receive discounts", then surely we have a massively biased sample?

Furthermore, if we accept that many people join for discounts and offers; are we really seeing indications that only 50% of fans are satisfied with the discounts and offers with which they are presented? They've held their hands up as potential purchasers -- but are only 50% more likely to purchase. Either that we're preaching to the choir, and discounting our best customers (an elementary marketing error.)

over 6 years ago

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Mat Morrison

Aargh. For "are only 50% more likely to purchase" in the above comment, please read "only 50% are more likely to purchase"! You see how tricky this stuff is?

over 6 years ago

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Sam Andrews, Creative Director at Snow Valley

Hmm. I missed the statistical errors in my late night reading.  However, as Matt suggests there is already a higher level of engagement with members of social networks (especially Facebook and becoming a "fan").  So the idea shouldn't be how to drive more of the same, but how to develop that customer segment – offer exclusives, discounts and private pre-orders in-network.

over 6 years ago

Meghan Keane

Meghan Keane, US Editor at Econsultancy

Mat, You are entirely correct. Apologies about the misleading headline, I've fixed it. As you noted in your second comment, it's a bit easy to get numbers like this jumbled. But again, I'm sorry about that.

over 6 years ago

John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite, Managing Director at Ergo Digital

Isn't this where the Quantitative and Qualitative worlds collide? To a certain extent coming up with raw number based on 'preference' is a little bit wooly, but there's no doubt that the numbers do stack up compared with the 'successes' reported by various businesses (and not just consumer ones). Whilst there is definitely a strong case to suggest that the best consumers of brand would be more likely to follow - this doesn't mean that encouraging following is only a means of establishing the number of Twitter users in your existing customer-base. It is widely accepted that increasing the number of touch-points with customers is vital to a longer/closer relationship. If social media can accelerate a customer into becoming more affiliated to and perhaps, through word of mouth (and retweets), more of a spokesperson for a brand - surely this is a good thing too?

over 6 years ago

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Michael Grayer

Er... the headline's changed, but it's still misleading. So is the body of the text. Mainly because you've misinterpreted the figure. The figure does not show that "people are... 51% more likely to [purchase products] if they follow a brand on Facebook". It says that "51% of respondents answered 'yes' to the question 'Are you more likely to buy since becoming a fan?'" This means that, presumably, 49% did not. Hardly a ringing endorsement of Facebook as a means of promoting a brand, is it? And as John Braithwaite says, the question as worded is rather wooly. What are you supposed to compare it to? "More likely" than what, or when? There's no group to compare these answers with! It gives no indication as to how many people actually follow brands (rather than their mates or interesting people) in the first place. There's also no way of knowing causality here. I truly hope that this "study" doesn't lead to the consequence of Twitter and Facebook becoming even more saturated with pointless and annoying ads and spam, thus detracting from the wonderful communications tools that these services are currently.

over 6 years ago

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Jordan McClements

I'm still a bit sceptical about how great ROI is with social media marketing, and how accurately it is measured.. Concerns which seem to be borne out by some of the comments above. I'm not saying it is not worth doing, just that you don't normally see a report saying "we spent £1000 on SMM last month and got back £2000" (something that is very easy to do with a Google AdWords campaign for example)... There seems to me to be far too much talk about the amazing intangible benefits it brings... Just my 2p (Bah Humbug)..

over 6 years ago

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Josh

Great conversation.  Having worked on this research I wanted to clarify a few points.  We didn’t set out to determine causality, we set out to see whether there was a positive relationship between being a fan/follower and people’s self-reported likelihood to buy or recommend a brand.   In fact, we know that many people who become fans do so because they are already a customer (49% cited this as one of the reasons they become a Facebook fan.)  What we found was that over half of those who are engaged stated that they are more likely to buy and recommend than they were before they became a fan/follower.  

This speaks to social media as an engagement strategy that keeps a brand top of mind and helps fight through the communications clutter. When we do this type of work for clients we take a broader view to assess causality, how behaviors vary between fans/followers and the rest of the market, what role other social media plays (forums, blogs, etc.) and how brands can/should engage in this space.  At the highest level, the social media phenomenon is something that brands can’t afford to ignore because the potential for low-cost growth is very high.

over 6 years ago

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Bryan Cassady

The question to really ask is one about causation. ie Buying ==> Fans or Fans ==> Buying My guess is any person that takes the time to sign up for a fan page is already more likely to buy the brand or service, so I fail to see the importance of these results. If a study was run with the same group of consumers, half that were invited to sign up for a fan page and half that were not and then the results were tracked I would be interested..

over 6 years ago

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Guido

Interesting post! After all social media is here to stay! David Plouffe’s,(President Barack Obama’s point man on social media) innovative strategy not only got Obama elected but also managed to raise the largest amount of campaign funding in election history.

At the IMD OWP 2010, David Plouffe will share his insights on the historic Obama campaign while framing it in the context of how Obama's leadership is shaping the United States and the world today. Weaving in his own experience managing and leading the campaign that propelled Obama into the White House, Plouffe will share: the stories behind the campaign and current strategic issues facing the administration; the importance of strategy in managing campaigns, public policy initiatives and crises; how Obama is still garnering support from the movement created during the campaign.

over 6 years ago

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Search Scientist | Online Marketing Northern Ireland

I've seen articles on how Facebook has the chance to be bigger than Google...but one step at a time I say. It has a lot of potential and I think that 2011 will be extremely telling. As a former Google employee myself, Facebook has been considered a competitor for quite a while, never more so than at present though. Google is going into Games, has invested in Zynga (who make Farmville etc) and is pushing hell for leather to promote the display network. Facebook's advertising was a bit of a joke a year or so ago, but there's been a steady flow of Google employees to Facebook and that's hugely improved recently.

From that, what I can say is I expect Facebook to be around and still growing for the next few years certainly. People spend more time on Facebook than any other website out there. There's a growing audience of the 30+ age group. There's also many many groups on Facebook, and growing. Facebook has built many interests connected communities - you can't underestimate the value of that. More detailed tracking and closer links to conversions may come, but as is it's still a valuable tool to interact with potential consumers and grow your base. It's more powerful for some businesses than others, but if you can use common sense to explain why it'd be useful to form an online community that you can interact with, then it's most likely worth some effort.

almost 6 years ago

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