Razorfish has released its annual study into consumer behavior online and this year’s results have a lot to do with social media. According to Feed: The Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report, many consumers are engaging with brands online to receive exclusive promotions or discounts.

The study also found that people who actively engage with a brand
digitally — from participating in a contest to downloading a mobile
application — are substantially more inclined to purchase and recommend
that brand to others.

The question for brands is how to create digital events that impress consumers. Because negative experiences online have a bad influence on the bottom line for brands.

Razorfish surveyed 1,000 US internet users about how technology affects the way they engage with brands and
make purchasing decisions. To get a picture of the consumers polled: 56% own a smartphone. But they’re not tech geeks — 62% of the respondents still use Internet Explorer as their browser.

What have Razorfish found? Well, obviously digital matters.

Almost 65% of those surveyed said they made their first purchase from a
brand because of a digital experience — either with a website,
microsite, mobile coupon or email. And an overwhelming 97% of respondents said that an online experience has
influenced whether or not they have purchased a product from a brand. So how are brands going to reach these people?

Not through mobile ads, if the survey is accurate.

Almost 70% of respondents have NEVER interacted with a banner ad on their smartphone. But they’re more willing to read blogs produced by brands. Around 20% of respondents usually to always read blogs produced by brands, and only 30% would never read them.

Meanwhile, 98% of those polled searched for specific brands online, meaning that they already know what they’re looking for when they search. Similarly, social media is the friend of established brands.

But people aren’t willing to let any brand invade their social space. 75% of respondents don’t follow brands on Twitter, meaning that most brand tweets are ignored, unless someone’s friend is retweeting those messages. However, almost half of those
twitters that do follow brands do so to get free deals and offers
available on the service.

Rather than gaining new adherents, that sounds like brands are having more success engaging loyal brand shoppers. People who are already spending money with a brand are likely to want coupons and offers from that brand for future savings.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, almost 40% of users have friended a brand on the service. For a network founded on making connections with real friends, that’s a big step for brand marketers. But are brands looking to reach out seeing a difference in social?

The survey doesn’t get to the heart of reaching new customers in social media, but it does show the importance of brand sponsored events, which can easily be extended to social.

Of the 70% who have participated in a brand sponsored contest, producing content for a branded contest makes almost 97% of responders sometimes to always recommend the brand to others. 98% feel the same way about purchasing a product. 69% would consider purchasing a product after attending a branded event.

Brands with loyal followings are already reaping rewards in social, but the key for those trying to expand their reach is engaging people in experiences they enjoy. Branded events and contests that spread goodwill about a product or company can carry through to the cash register later. As the study shows, that isn’t a leap of faith — it often happens.