The popularity of social media is surging--but that doesn't mean it's a boom-time for brands. A new study from communications agency Cone found that social media users "like," "follow," or "subscribe" to an average of just 4.6 companies.
The good news is that 86 percent of respondents said they are open to engaging with brands on social media, up from 78 percent in 2009.
Consumers "like" a company on Facebook, "follow" it via Twitter, and "subscribe" through an RSS feed.
So, how are you supposed to win the affinity of consumers? Easy. Give them free stuff.
Seventy-seven percent of new-media users look for free products, coupons, or discounts from companies, according to the study. They expect to find this free stuff on social networks (48 percent), mobile devices (20 percent), message boards (20 percent), blogs (13 percent), and online games (12 percent).
"Marketers are being more aggressive than ever with attractive promotions designed to generate likes, followers, and subscribers," Mike Hollywood, Cone's director of new media, said in a press release. "But attracting new media followers is like starting a fire -- coupons are your gasoline, and engaging content are the logs that keep the fire burning."
Consumers are also fickle on social media sites. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they're satisfied with their online experiences with companies, but more than half (58 percent) said they would stop following a company if it acts irresponsibly toward its consumers, over-communicates with them (58 percent), or provides irrelevant content (53 percent). Consumers would also ditch a company for under-communicating (36 percent) or censoring user-generated content (28 percent), the study said.
If a company delivers strong content, survey respondents said they will:
• Share information about the company across their own social networks (62 percent)
• Feel a stronger connection to the company (61 percent)
• Feel better served by the company (60 percent)
• Purchase the company's products or services (59 percent)
You can download the 2010 Cone Consumer New Media Study here.