Why People Follow Brands on Social Networks

9th Aug, 2010

Last year I conducted a qualitative research project amongst a dozen Irish and UK users of Facebook. The aim was to understand why they were fans of brands and what their opinions on social network marketing were. The results returned were very interesting. When I asked why they were fans of brands the responses included; to get more information on the product or business, they had a pre-existing interest in the product, they wanted to display their preferences for the product, they already liked the product (this was before the ‘like’ button on Facebook), and one person reported ‘boredom’ had them searching product pages on Facebook.


While the sample for my study was too small to be considered across the Irish population, a similar quantitative study carried out in Sweden recently returned similar results. Blog Sweden 5 was conducted amongst over 2,000 Swedish bloggers. The study (which can be found here) highlights the reasons why people become fans of products on social media as;

1. To show other people I like the brand (45.4)

2. To receive promotions (24.9%)

3. To get access to exclusive information (24.9%)

4. To be amongst the first to receive company information (21.5%)

5. Because I am a customer of the company (21%)

The rest of the answers included to be part of a group with similar interests (20.5%), because it is entertaining (20.3%), the respondent worked for the company (7.1%) or they were specifically asked by somebody (6.9). Interestingly the second highest answer given by 32.2% of respondents was ‘I have not become a fan or followed a brand. Now this is amongst a web savvy audience of bloggers and finding out how many people aren’t fans of brands, and why they aren’t, in the wider population would be very useful.

What Can We Takeaway?

Neither study can be regarded as statistically valid, Blog Sweden 5 was carried out using convenience sampling and only amongst bloggers. My study was qualitative and amongst a small population of people who were already fans of products. So neither can adequately give a percentage as to why people follow brands on social networks.

When looking at the answers on the whole they do suggest one thing – fans, followers or liker’s on the most part become fans of products they know, understand and more than probably ‘love’.

This is Great For…

Businesses that already have a customer base. It is your product or service users that will most likely follow you. They are already using your brand, but do they know about your social media channels? The easiest way to let them know is to remind them at a key point of contact. Espresso in Waterford have a blackboard with the Facebook logo mounted on the wall, Abercrombie & Fitch get their staff to remind customers to check them out on Facebook as they purchase goods. How is your brand used by your custmers, and how can you notify them of your social media presence? Of the two examples neither business has invested anything extra into the promotion of their Facebook page.

But It’s Bad For

Brands completely new to market (not a new outlet, or new flavour, I mean completely new) will have a hard time using just social media to promote themselves. It’s not impossible. But in the initial stages social media should be directed at encouraging use and understanding of the brand. For example a new local restaurant could offer an amazing deal to get fans down on the opening weekend. But for a lot of new business such an offer is not feasible. This suggests that launching an entirely new offering to market will benefit more from traditional advertising (Print, Radio & TV) to build awareness in the initial stages. However, once new customers come through the door converting them into loyal long term customers will be out of the hands of just marketing.

Returning to the original question, why do you think people follow brands on social media?