What Do Consumers Think About the Brands They Follow on Social Media?

What do consumers think of the brands they follow on social media

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool.”

So says rock critic Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s film Almost Famous. And while the rock stars and writers of Crowe’s cult classic eventually learn that “coolness” isn’t the end-all-be-all, in today’s digital marketing landscape, plenty of brands still seem to chase being “cool” as the ultimate goal of their social media efforts.

But does hipness actually translate to clicks? Does a killer pop culture reference automatically generate engagement?

For those answers, Geek Chicago didn’t look to Lester Bangs, but instead to the digital savants over at Sprout Social, whose Q2 2017 Social Index report revealed something amazing – namely, that “Consumers Aren’t Looking to Buy From Brands That Are ‘Cool’ on Social.”

But what are those consumers reacting to? And what social media behaviors would encourage them to commit to a purchase? Let’s dig into some of the key takeaways from Sprout Social’s stunning research, which reveals that, in the minds of consumers…

1.) Responsiveness Has the Biggest Impact on Social Media

As it turns out, good old fashioned customer service will never actually go out of style. At least, that’s our takeaway from Sprout Social’s survey of more than 1000 consumers, 48% of whom said that “being responsive” was the brand action most likely to prompt a purchase from them.

To that end, when asked which behaviors they wanted to see from brands on social media, the top three consumer responses all related to customer service; “honest” (86%), “friendly” (83%), and “helpful” (78%) dominated the poll, ranking way ahead of “trendy” and “snarky” (43% and 33%, respectively).

Looking to improve your ability to respond to your social media feedback? Check out our guides to social listening and handling social complaints the right way!

2.) Brands Shouldn’t Get Too Casual

Based on Sprout’s findings, there is every reason to believe that brands have actually been putting too much focus on cultivating personalities – at least in the minds of their potential customers!

In fact, when it comes to the majority of industries – including internet/technology companies, retail companies, and even non-profits – a majority of respondents actually don’t necessarily need or want a brand to have “personality.”

Perhaps this is because some of the behaviors that businesses espouse as “cool” actually end up pushing consumers away; according to Sprout’s findings, for instance, consumers tend to find it annoying when brands make fun of customers (67%), talk politics (71%), use slang (69%), or trash talk a competitor (67%).

And it’s also clear that consumers only want brands to dish it out on certain platforms: 83% of total respondents said that they prefer to see brand personality expressed on Facebook, a far cry from the mere 40% who like to see it on Twitter. It should be noted, though, that millennials, on the whole, prefer to see their brands get personal; they prefer brand personality on every platform (except LinkedIn) compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers.

3.) Visual Content Is King

Of course, it’s not all cut and dry! To us, the results of these surveys don’t suggest that brands suddenly need to become bland or monotonous online – after all, 72% of consumers do say that they like their brands to be funny!

Instead, these results suggest that too many in our industry are chasing relevance at the expense of what consumers really want to see, which is quality.

Case in point? According to Sprout Social’s research, consumers do react very positively to brands creating unique visual content. 83% say that it’s “cool” for a brand to use videos on social media, and 58% like it when brands use GIFs.

In other words? Taking the time to invest in high quality multimedia and authentically interact with your followers is genuinely productive for brands; the rest is just chatter.

Want to get started with creating social media videos for your audience? Check out our guide to jumpstarting your streaming video campaign.

4.) The Customer Is Always Right

Finally, it’s important to note that if consumers don’t respect, appreciate, or value what you’re doing on social media, the blowback could be huge!

Based on Sprout’s research, consumers are decisive and waste no time when it comes to severing their ties to a brand on social media – or worse – due to “irritating” behavior.

51% of consumers say that they’re willing to unfollow a brand that irritates them; others are willing to take even more immediate action, either by leaving a negative reaction on a post (22%) or otherwise sharing their thoughts online (21%).

In all, this study is a great reminder of what it takes to genuinely succeed at, and draw lasting value from, the ever-evolving field of social media marketing. As audience tastes and behaviors continue to change, your digital marketing efforts need to be primed and ready to adapt and grow continually.

Will you be able to keep up with the next major social media shift? If you want to find out, drop Geek Chicago a line today! Our team would be happy to talk over any and all aspects of your current or social media marketing strategy, from targeted ads to content creation.

Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).