In fact, 60% of consumers polled follow at least one brand via a social network, and one in four said they did so in order to search for coupons or promotions, according to a poll of more than 15,000 residents of the United States and Canada by Empathica, a developer of customer experience management (CEM) solutions. Thirty percent cited their desire to seek more information on a brand, the study found.
"The challenge for companies is to identify the triggers that make consumers want to follow their brand, further engage with them and keep them top-of-mind," said Gary Edwards, Empathica executive VP of client services. "Our survey results suggest consumers show preference to interacting with brands that offer coupons and promotions via social media outlets. It's important for brands to recognize consumer preferences and what will help encourage them to visit an establishment."
While special discounts are a strong tool for first forming a relationship with consumers, businesses should look to move beyond general social media adoption, and seek ways to engage this channel into becoming active brand advocates, Edwards said. However, many companies today still find this level of engagement and nurturing to be a challenge, he noted. CEM solutions are designed to help organizations incorporate all communications and make them searchable and able to be analyzed, so companies can quickly respond in order to improve customer service and the quality of the consumer's overall experience.
Pursuing this type of relationship with consumers has an obvious benefit: About one-third of respondents acted upon a friend's recommendation on a social networking site, the Empathica study showed. There is a slight difference in the two nations: One-fourth of Americans and 17% of Canadians had recommended a brand, service or product to a friend via a social network within the last three months, according to the poll.
In addition, Americans are nearly twice as likely to follow 10 or more brands than Canadians, and almost 50% of Canadians surveyed followed no brands.
"There is an apparent disparity between how American and Canadian consumers are using social media sites to engage with brands," said Edwards. "We see that consumers are willing to make that connection with a brand online, even go as far as to make recommendations via social networks, so brands need to make it easier for them to do so."
Not surprisingly, given its user base of more than 500 million registered accounts, Facebook was the favorite social media site in both countries, preferred by 67% of Americans and 64% of Canadians.
"Social media outlets offer numerous opportunities for companies to further promote and encourage brand engagement, taking it past an in-store experience to further validate their commitment to the customer," Edwards concluded.
Empathica developed GoRecommend, an application that allows users to share positive brand experiences via Facebook, Twitter and email. After completing an Empathica retail experience survey, the GoRecommend engine prompts respondents who show a "high intent to recommend" their experience to share the results with their contacts.