Follower, Fan or Subscriber: Who's a Better "Friend" to a Brand?

Facebook or Twitter? Twitter or Facebook? Many brand marketers seem to go back and forth on this as if these are the only social media platform choices. Further, they may forget that there are other proven digital marketing tools that not only can be used in conjunction with brands’ social media marketing, these vehicles are increasingly adding new social media integration functions.

A recent study [PDF] from digital direct marketing firm Exact Target not only informs the Yankees versus Red Sox – oops – I mean, the Twitter versus Facebook debate, it stands these platforms up next to email and concludes that, “email, Facebook and Twitter offer unique strengths to marketers and consumers alike”.

We’ve previously reported on the efficacy of email as part of a total digital/social media marketing strategy and how inclusion of social sharing links improves the click-thru rates of emails. The present study finds Twitter is most likely to drive increased purchase intent; followed email and Facebook. Exact Target points to the comparatively small percentage of consumers that interact with brands on Twitter and Facebook as support for email remaining a key part of online retention marketing programs.

Key findings of the research include:

  • 93% of US online consumers subscribe to email marketing messages, 38% are fans of brands on Facebook and 5% follow brands on Twitter.
  • Of those who interact with brands via email, Facebook and Twitter, 27% of email subscribers, 17% of Facebook fans and 37% of Twitter followers are more likely to purchase from a brand after engaging with the brand via each channel.
  • Of those who interact with brands via email, Facebook and Twitter, 24% of email subscribers, 21% of Facebook fans and 33% Twitter followers are more likely to recommend a brand after interacting with the brand via each channel.
  • 67% of consumers have subscribed to email marketing messages to receive discounts or promotions, compared to 40% of consumers who have become a fan of a brand on Facebook and 31% who have followed a brand Twitter for the same reason.
  • 39% of Facebook users who become fans do so to publicly display their brand affiliation to friends – nearly twice as often as consumers who follow brands on Twitter (22%) and nearly four times more often than consumers who subscribe to email communications (11%) for the same reason.
  • 20% of consumers indicate they have followed a brand on Twitter to interact with the company – more than become email subscribers (14%) or Facebook fans (13%) for the sake of interaction.

“Consumers don’t isolate their communications to email, Facebook or Twitter and expect brands to communicate consistently across the channels,” said Jeff Rohrs, principal, ExactTarget’s Marketing Research and Education Group. “Marketers should focus on developing and implementing an integrated strategy that combines – not isolates – the powerful strengths of each of the online channels.”

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