Sometimes it's helpful to verify something that seems obvious. In this case a new study from Chadwick Martin Bailey, a market research firm, confirms that people who associate themselves with a brand through online social networks are more likely, on average, to buy that brand and recommend it to friends.
"No duh," I hear some readers saying (chances are it will turn up in the comments). But the CMB data, based on a survey of over 1,500 consumers performed in partnership with iModerate Research Technologies, is important for lending support to one of the first social media strategies -- "make a profile!" -- at a time when many doubt its effectiveness.
Specifically, the CMB-IMRT survey found that 60% of Facebook users who are fans of a brand are more likely to recommend the brand to friends since they became a fan; the same is true of 79% of Twitter users who follow a brand. Meanwhile 51% of the Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to buy a brand since they became a fan or follower.
These are interesting results, especially considering what seems like widespread skepticism about the usefulness, in marketing terms, of profiles for brands and products on social networks. Thinking back five years or so, the social network profile was one of the first strategies for creating a social media presence -- and yes, a lot of the enthusiasm for profile-making seems a little misplaced in retrospect (a MySpace profile for a new fish filet sandwich? Okay, if you say so). Fast forward to the present, and at conferences I feel like it's a favorite trope of panelists looking back both nostalgically and disdainfully on the medium's early days: "There was a time when you could, you know, just make a MySpace profile and bill the client $300,000, but that just won't fly anymore" (not an actual quote).
Today, of course, no big brand should limit its social media strategy to creating a social network profile (what is this, 2005?) But it's also good to know that those trusty old profiles do actually have some value.
One obvious question not answered by the CMB-IMRT survey: is the connection between social network fandom/following and increased purchase behavior one of correlation or causation? Grumbly skeptic that I am, I have a hard time believing that someone would actually link to a social network profile and then be persuaded by its contents to go buy the product. The much more likely scenario, in my humble op-ed, is that they express growing interest in the product by seeking out the social network profile, which is part of a series of moves towards making the purchase.
However, this doesn't mean that the profiles have no value for, say, reinforcing subsequent purchase behavior. Once a person is "in the club," information and brand messages posted on the profile, and interactions with other people who are also fans of the product, could both encourage repeat business.