Posted November 5, 2010 4:53 pm by with 8 comments

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More than ever, social media users are including brands in their list of friends and follows but according to the 2010 Cone Consumer New Media Study, five is the magic cutoff number.

How do you become part of the small, inner circle? You already know the answer to that. 77% of users said they followed a brand for free products or discounts. No surprise there. But getting the engagement and keeping it, are two different things.

Says Cone‘s director of new media, Mike Hollywood:

“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’ affinity can only tolerate five brands, so companies need to think beyond the coupon or clever widget to figure out how to develop long-term relationships with real staying power. The best new media strategies are those that balance relevant content with timely promotions and ongoing company-consumer dialogue.”

According to the survey, 58% of users will stop following a company if it acts irresponsibly toward its consumers, over-communicates with them (58%) or provides irrelevant content (53%). Under-communicating (36%) or censoring user-generated content (28%) are the lesser reasons why people disconnect.

Personally, I disconnect from brands mostly because the deal I signed up for is over. For example, I’m currently following Lowe’s thanks to their crazy Black Friday promotion but once it’s over, I’ll likely “unlike” them. Facebook has made that easier than ever by including the option on the drop-down linked to each post. Since they added that ability, I’ve disconnected from several brands I was following in order to get a deal or coupon. Why bother disconnecting at all? It does tie back to that magic number five. I simply can’t tolerate more than five commercial messages popping up in my social media stream on Facebook. On Twitter, where things blend in and become invisible very quickly, my tolerance for following brands is much higher.

The takeaway here is that coupons and deals will bring them in but you have to up your game if you intend to keep the audience you developed. You have to deliver content that is useable or fun and you have to engage the community. If a person is a participant and not just a watcher, they’re more likely to stick around, share information and buy what you’re selling. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?

You can download the full presentation for free from Cone. Just click here.

Graphic by Cone

  • Interesting! I’m strange I guess, I never follow or sign up for free stuff (ever! ) Perhaps because I am spam-phobic 🙂
    In any case, interesting info to ponder nonetheless. I typically don’t follow companies who automate all of their posts and never engage (unless the content is REALLY good). The ratio of ‘posts of value’ vs. ‘selling posts’ has to be greater to the value. I can get ‘sold to’ anywhere. But that’s just me 🙂

  • I assume the rule of 3 is the rule of 5 in the web. There are always 3 or 5 players in an industry. I am sure Gap is one of those brands that tons of people follow. With their aggressive coupon campaigns the other big consumer brands probably have a hard time.

  • I follow a few brands but not to get free stuff. Because I like them. Hoping my following will feel the same about me!

  • Its funny but I still follow more brands via email and I follow different brands on facebook than I do in my email. I hadn’t given it any real thought but I also think I only follow a 3 or 4 brands on a regular basis. but I “like” at least 200 brands on facebook just because of the type of business I’m in.

  • Interestingly enough Brands need to take responsibility for not wanting to think long term. Having worked with them and sharing what is successful when engaging with communities, they get so stuck on large numbers to justify participation. When the slow steady long term always delivers better quality and sustainability.

  • Call me old fashion but I still use email for most of my brand communication but then again I spend 90% of my time on email. I follow a few brands on social but I follow more brands via twitter than facebook. The brands I follow on facebook are the brands that I have loved for years already and I’m looking for great content. I have yet to ever follow a brand for a special promotion but I understand I’m not the norm.

    I come from the automotive dealer business. I’m the Internet Marketing Director for several car dealers and “Social” has become the buzz word (our industry is usually a little behind) across our industry. Dealers are being “suggested” they should and need to figure out social. Dealers are building out facebook pages left and right.

    The challenge: Most dealers are not “brands” though could offer up some great promotions and content if the dealer had someone in charge with the skills to truly engage. Most do not.

    If a consumer on average would follow 5 brands – why would someone follow and continue to follow a car dealership?

    Would you follow a car Dealership on Facebook?

    • Jeff,

      One of the things that would make me want to follow a car dealership is that they talk to my needs to be able to know more about my car from an educational perspective-that allows me to be a better consumer.

      Why getting regular service as it pertains to a story (which is easy to read and feel connected). Have you developed personas of your ideal clients, then talked to their needs.

      Be the first car dealership that teaches women how to get the best deal and to negotiate with confidence their car purchase.

      I have a bunch more ideas (which is why clients hire me, chuckle) and i think you might see the opportunity in what was shared. I salute you for asking, that’s better than saying “oh heck we do not need to be there”

  • Fred

    “I simply can’t tolerate more than five commercial messages popping up in my social media stream on Facebook.” Ha.. who hasn’t already blocked commercial messaging on social media entirely already? Are you kidding, I have NO ads, anywhere. (see Ghostery, Ad-block Plus, Disconnect + many more add-ons to avoid commercial messaging and tracking). That does not mean I don’t look for sales/coupons/specials etc but there are plenty of place to find these an not have to put up with messaging/tracking BS.