Social media drives engagement, study finds
There is a huge benefit to brands that engage with consumers in the social space, but the challenge is to identify the type of social experience that consumers actually want, according to the fifth 'Wave' study by marketing communications agency UM.
The latest survey, entitled 'The Socialisation of Brands', explored changes in communication technology and the ways in which social media affect consumer habits.
Having surveyed some 36,800 social network participants from 53 countries, the study concluded that having a deeper understanding of such consumer needs is the key to creating compelling and successful social media programmes, and that social media is now firmly ingrained in consumers' everyday lives, with more people using these platforms to connect with friends than even the telephone, email or face-to-face meetings.
Perhaps the most significant shift in social media in recent years is the ability of users to engage via mobile devices. Nearly 30% of mobile users now access the internet on their devices. The study noted that smartphone users, who are more likely to be male and of higher socio-economic status, are more often engaging in social media, tearing down the perception that this is a medium dominated by the younger demographics.
However, the younger demographics still prove to be more deeply engaged, using the social media platforms as one-stop shops for interacting with peers. From direct messaging to pictures and information sharing, everything is conducted in a single space. Consequently, the company argues, tapping into that space is increasingly more valuable to brands, with social media communities often proving to be more valuable than traditional brand web sites.
"It is vital for businesses to understand this new wave of interactive digital branding," said Jeannette Liendo, global campaigns director for the corporate marketing group at Microsoft. "New conversation engines are emerging every day, and a company must be able to leverage them by saying something meaningful. Clearly the market's traditional media spend is continuously shifting to digital so - at the minimum - brands need to invest more in 'social listening'."
In fact, of those consumers who had joined a brand community, 72% said they thought more positively about the brand as a result, 71% said they are more likely to buy the brand, 66% said they felt more loyal to the brand, and 63% said they had encouraged others to join.
These figures suggest that the "socialisation of brands" represents a major shift in how brands are communicating with consumers, and that this is a trend that is likely to continue for some time.
More details and findings from the study have been made available for free download from UM's web site - click here (PDF document; no registration needed).