Posted November 9, 2010 10:38 am by with 5 comments

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Marketers are constantly looking for the silver bullet, the holy grail or the big kahuna, if you will, that can truly define just how much interaction people are actually having with their brands online.

What are people looking for? Are they are truly interacting or are they just serial “Likers”? This is a question that will nag everyone in the marketing game for as long as this game is being played because in the end the only way to gauge a person’s engagement is to measure their sentiment and that’s going to always be elusive.

In efforts to define this interaction we turn to studies like the one just completed by the Cone Media and brought to our attention by the Center for Media Research. The chart below comes from the report called “2010 Cone Consumer New Media Study”. I have added to it in case you didn’t notice.

My question is the definition of people being “Somewhat Satisfied” about their online interaction with a brand. Why? Mainly because when anyone is somewhat satisfied with something it implies that they are also either somewhat dissatisfied or something else. The chart above would have us believe that only 5% are somewhat dissatisfied with this whole online brand interaction thing.

Confusing? I think so because what this is really saying to me that with only 14% being very satisfied that leaves everyone else falling into or dangerously near the category of being “Indifferent” which is a marketers worst nightmare. Maybe that’s why researchers don’t use the term because it’s actually telling the truth.

All I am doing, as I normally do, is looking at research and trying to call it like it is. Let’s face it. Many people follow or like brands because of a particular offer they can get at a particular time. Once that hook passes so does the interest in the brand online until something else happens to really catch their attention. What percentage of people are hanging on the social media moves of many brands at all? It’s a product. It’s a service. Sure we lead pretty hollow lives but are we that shallow that we depend on brands for genuine interaction?

I realize I am playing devil’s advocate here but with the amount of research I look at I can’t help but feel that we are dancing around the reality in many cases. That reality being that while we want people to truly engage with our brand online it’s not likely that the masses will truly be engaged to the level marketers desire. That all out dedication to the brand and their zealot like following is the goal but it’s rare. In fact, in the people that actually respond that way it might be unhealthy since they tie so much of their persona into a brand.

As a for instance, I am a Coca Cola bigot. I have said it here before. I won’t drink a Pepsi product if I can help it. I admit this is over the top and a little bizarre but it’s true. Now, here’s the rub. I don’t give a rip about Coca Cola online. Why? Because it doesn’t define me and unless I can save some money or get a customer service question answered I don’t have the time to care or pay attention. But guess what? I am a fan of the Coca Cola Facebook page (which has a very interesting history of its own that you may want to look into). I don’t even know if there are updates because I don’t look for them. I don’t go there and when I do the inane drivel that is being passed off as ‘interaction’ makes me happy that I stay away.

So is social media truly engaging people or is it just pleasing a present need or passing fancy that doesn’t translate into loyalty or engagement beyond the one instance? Is somewhat satisfied the same as being indifferent but being said in a way to give an online marketer hope?

I don’t know. I’m thinking out loud here. If you got this far and want to chime in that would be pretty cool. So what’s your take?

  • Great points to consider.

    I know a ton of ‘fans’ of Zappos probably fall in the Very Satisfied category, but I’m trying to think about a brand like Williams Sonoma or Del Monte….great companies that may have a niche following, but at the end of the day people could report they are “indifferent’ to them.

    Thanks for the link to the research, while I was not aware of it, I will go over and review it further.
    One of the points of the research, which I think you are alluding to is that there is no qualitative information behind the quantitative results that were reported. There’s only so much to gain, or infer based on numbers, (as noted by this research) in that 50% of respondents may be indifferent. The ‘Why?” question needs to be answered and thus some qualitative research in conjunction with this would go along way.

  • Well written article ,i agree with you

  • Is a Facebook “like” an indication of brand engagement? Yes, to the extent that a consumer who likes your Facebook page is willing to publicly acknowledge affinity with your brand. Does that signify the LEVEL of engagement or the strength of the relationship? No.

    Social media affords brands the opportunity to directly interact with consumers, but how they interact and engage those consumers is going to drive how little or how much they ultimately get out of social marketing. A Facebook “fan” or a Twitter follower merely is an opening for a brand TO engage a consumer. It provides an opening for a conversation, an interaction and the beginnings of a trusted brand relationship.

    The Cone Consumer study you mentioned above went on to point out:
    “It may be difficult for companies to get to the top, but it’s even harder to stay there. Nearly two-thirds (59%) of new media users say they are satisfied with their online experiences with companies, but that doesn’t mean they won’t hesitate to punish companies by disengaging. More than half of users will stop following a company if it acts irresponsibly toward its consumers (58%), over-communicates with them (58%) or provides irrelevant content (53%). Under-communicating (36%) or censoring user-generated content (28%) is also grounds for falling out of favor.”

    Starting with that single act of engagement, the brand has the opportunity to open the door to letting he consumer state how they want to be contacted, how often they want communications, and what they really want. In your example, you “like” Coca-Cola, but you could care less about engaging in Facebook chit-chat. However, would coupons be of value to you? Since you buy Coca-Cola, would you want to be part of their Rewards program and get merchandise, free product or other incentives as a loyal customer? How often do you want to get those incentive promotions? Do you want them through Facebook, Twitter, over email or even on your mobile phone?

    Consumer preference management doesn’t end with email marketing programs. Social marketing is driving the need for further refinement of the marketing process. By developing full consumer social profiles including individual preferences and utilizing that data effectively, brands CAN and will move the needle from “Somewhat Satisfied” to “Rabid Fan Who Can’t Stop Talking About Coca-Cola.”

  • Cynthia

    I too will not touch a Pepsi. It’s Coca Cola all the way but I don’t follow the brand. The brands I do follow tend to be specialty foods that I enjoy such as Barilla Pasta and Del Taco keeps me in with their combination of coupons and fun tidbits. Otherwise, if I’m following a brand it’s purely for coupon or contest purposes.

    When it comes to Facebook, indifferent might be the best a brand can hope for. If it keeps them from “unliking” then that’s a big step.

  • All rather. You do not know where it to appear to you better. In a network it is a lot of deceit including among marketing.