From ‘Like’ to ‘Used to Like’

While social media give consumers new ways to express affinity for brands, they also give consumers a new way to display their fickleness. Amid the current enthusiasm for accumulating “followers,” companies may overlook the latter part of the equation. A newly issued Cone Inc. survey detects factors that lead people to engage with a brand — and those that may prompt them to disengage from it.

The graphic here indicates the hierarchy of elements that draw new-media users to “like” a brand on Facebook, “follow” it via Twitter, sign up for an RSS feed and so on. (The polling, fielded online in September, defined “new media” as including everything from social networks to microblogs to online games to message boards.)

Such users reported connecting online with an average of five companies or brands, although 33 percent said they engage this way with “none.”

When the relationship is sustained, it can yield significant benefit for the marketer. Sixty-one percent of respondents endorsed the statement, “I feel a stronger connection with a brand if I can interact with it in a new-media environment.” Nearly as many agreed that they “feel better served by companies when I can have a conversation with them in a new-media environment” (60 percent) and that they are “more likely to purchase a company’s or brand’s products or services if I can interact with it in a new-media environment” (59 percent).

But any relationship can go awry if not cultivated properly, and the online engagement of brand and consumer is no exception. One part of the poll asked new-media users to cite reasons that would lead them to cease following a company in that environment. Fifty-eight percent would do so if “The company or brand acted irresponsibly either toward me or its other consumers, and I am no longer a fan of it.”

And, like an inept boyfriend, the brand can be too clingy with the consumer. Thus, 58 percent also said they would call it quits if “The company or brand over-communicates with me (e.g., I get too many messages from it, there is too much content to sift through, it sends out spam).” Fifty-three percent said they would end the relationship if “The content the company or brand provides is not relevant to me.”

Consider yourself warned.