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

Published on September 20, 2017

“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.