Brands are busily trying to figure out how to build their followings on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. The secret to success may lie in the most old school of marketing techniques: give people a deal.
A new consumer study of "digitally connected" consumers commissioned by Razorfish found that 43 percent of those following brands on Twitter do so because of exclusive deals or offers. That tops interesting content (23 percent), current customers (24 percent) and service support (4 percent). Overall, more than 25 percent said they followed a brand on Twitter
The story is roughly the same for those fanning brands on Facebook or friending them on MySpace. Nearly 37 percent said it was for deals, edging out current customers (33 percent) and dwarfing interesting content (19 percent) and service support (5 percent). About 40 percent said they've connected with brand pages on Facebook or MySpace.
The findings chart what many brands are doing to plump their followings on Facebook and Twitter. Starbucks is the most popular brand on Facebook, helped along by a promotion that gave away free ice cream. Dominos recently ran a promotion that awarded a $100 gift card to consumers who helped it get to 7,000 Twitter followers. (It never reached the number.)
Razorfish, now part of the Publicis Groupe, surveyed 1,000 "digitally connected" U.S. consumers -- about 200 million Americans qualify, according to the shop, roughly tracing the broadband Internet access population -- to learn how their digital media habits are influencing their brand perceptions.
This "fan culture" around brands holds great promise for those that nurture it, according to Garrick Schmidt, group vp of experience planning at Razorfish. He notes that 70 percent have participated in a brand contest or sweepstakes, another 24 percent have produced a piece of content on behalf of a brand and 26 percent have attended a brand event.
"They're clearly choosing to engage with brands in every sort of way," he said. "Brands are so part of the culture, for them to not participate in a meaningful way, they do more damage than good."
The survey concludes tech savvy consumers are now "the new mainstream." Among its findings:
• 57 percent customize their home page
• 76 percent watch online video
• 62 percent use online music services
• 56 percent own a smartphone
If Razorfish is to be believed, the coming battle for brands will involve crafting great customer experiences -- rather than simply ad messages -- to reach an increasingly tech-savvy population that reflects its survey sample. The survey published as part of its annual digital brand experience report concludes that social media tools are driving greater customer information access, putting added pressure on brands to match their words with actions.
The challenge for agencies in helping clients reach this "new mainstream," according to Schmidt, is to craft complete product experiences, from the messages to the online or offline store experiences. More and more, Schmidt believes the focus should shift to the actual tangible experiences customers have with a brand.
"The reality is this new experiential mode is rising up to supplant the role of traditional advertising," he said.
See also: "Brands Seek Fans on Facebook"