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social networksStartups like Klout may have a hard time convincing brands they can prove how influential social media followers are. But  dozens of studies aim to figure out why consumers are mentioning, following, or friending brands via social media.

The latest is from Empathica, which surveyed over 15,000 Americans and Canadians, to deliver its take on who's following brands and why.

Give me coupons, please

Empathica found 60% of consumers said they follow at least one brand on their social networks. On its own, that data point isn't particularly newsworthy for marketers, since follower counts alone are poor benchmarks for determining whether a social media campaign is really influential.

So why are all those consumers friending and following brands? The main reason is to get coupons.

Some 40% of survey respondents said they followed brands so they could search for or receive coupons and special promotions. The second-most likely reason (30%) was so they could “browse for additional information.” Far fewer were following to compliment (7.5%), suggest improvements (4%) or complain (3%). 

The reasoning didn't vary much depending on demographics, either. Coupons and promotions came up as the top reason for following brands with social media among:

  • 45% of respondents age 18-24
  • 49% of respondents age 25-34
  • 43% of respondents aged 35-44
  • 36% of respondents aged 45-54

The key here?

Social engagement is definitely about two-way conversation and making a brand more “friendly and personable” – but brands must give consumers some form of reward in exchange for their attention. Figure out ways to make that reward tangible and you can boost both sales and brand perception.

Getting it right

Some brands clearly understand that, as they're using social media to give their brand “ambassadors” real rewards.

Gap was one of the first brands to tap Facebook Deals, and incited a media frenzy with its campaign to give away 10,000 free pairs of jeans to users who checked in and claimed the deal via Facebook Places.

Gap Facebook Deals

Gap did wind up giving away all of the jeans, but opinions on whether the promotion was a smashing success or social media fail for Gap are mixed. Still, the company was able to generate “hundreds and hundreds” of check-ins – the desired engagement metric for Facebook Places – as a result. That’s giving a tangible product or service, which is what consumers want.

The most undeniable example is Dell and Twitter. Since 2007, Dell has been using its @delloutlet Twitter handle to send exclusive discount codes to its followers, and has reaped the benefits of that follower engagement to the tune of over $6.5 million in global sales. 

Dell Twitter account

Figuring out ways to reward consumers for their attention – be it with discounts, free merchandise, or even virtual rewards – is vital to reaping the most benefits of the social medium.

Tameka Kee

Published 8 December, 2010 by Tameka Kee

Tameka Kee has been covering digital media with a focus on online advertising, social media and gaming since 2007. Find her at tamekakee.com or follow her on Twitter

49 more posts from this author

Comments (5)


David "CrazyKinux" Perry

These examples will go a long way in giving weight to corporation embracing social media and leverage it to its full extent. Great post Tameka!

David, aka @SocialDave, aka @CrazyKinux

almost 6 years ago


Kelly Doyle

I couldn't agree more about the importance of the 2-way communication!  Thanks, Tameka.

almost 6 years ago


Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

Thanks Tameka and eConsultancy for highlighting this. I can't tell you how many times I have highlighted the myriad of research that (two others in the last three months being the CONE 2010 Consumer New Media Survey & the Exact Target Subscribers, Fans and Followers Research Series) and got a frosty reception from so called social media gurus in the UK. I understand why. There is a body of professionals that make a living out of social media that don't like the cold hard reality of the success and applicability of mainstream promotional marketing tactics on social networks. However Altimeter have done a good job at looking at persuading social media professionals to move from a defensive and reactive position to become social strategists - essentially working with each departments to get them to make their processes applicable to the opportunities that social networks present. Getting marketing to regularly create compelling promotions that people will want to engage with - such as coupons, sweepstakes, offers, quizzes and the like - will help generate attracting more fan to the companies Facebook Page. If these coupons and promotions are done through a site like www.EngageSciences.com then potentially tens or hundreds of people could be exposed to the coupon for every person that takes one, as the app can write to the Facebook friend feeds, exposing the promotion to each entrants friend network. It is a great way to get marketing results on social networks.

almost 6 years ago

Tameka Kee

Tameka Kee, Writer/Analyst at Econsultancy

Thanks, @Kelly and Dave @Richard - I can't figure out where the reluctance to accept that users actually need "something" in return for their attention stems from. Perhaps some social media experts/agencies don't want to do the extra work? @Arron - Interesting results. Is there a demo version of Toluna available for press to use?

almost 6 years ago



Wow, a very interesting (and helpful) study. I can completely see (and agree, knowing myself) that the rewards for following are so important! Thanks for posting, really enjoyed reading!

almost 6 years ago

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