Poll: Consumers more likely to buy from brands they follow online

A recent survey of millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers revealed that PR and marketing pros should still focus on Facebook—and that social media content can boost your bottom line.

In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s hard to argue against the value of social media.

Still, many PR and marketing managers struggle with just how to spend their time crafting and publishing content online—and what will best engage consumers of all ages.

A new survey by Sprout Social can help shed light on the dilemma. It recently surveyed 1,000 consumers in three generation brackets: millennials (ages 18 to 34), Generation X (ages 34 to 54) and Baby Boomers (ages 55 and up).

“The results revealed a few commonalities and shed light on the differences between the behaviors, perceptions and expectations of each generation,” Sprout Social said.

Here’s what brand managers should know:

1. Facebook is king.

Regardless of age bracket, Facebook still ranks No. 1 as most consumers’ preferred social network.

Though some millennials listed Instagram (22.2 percent) or Snapchat (15.8 percent) as their top choice, Facebook remained the winner with 33 percent of the vote.

When looking at younger millennials (ages 18–24), the answer changes slightly: The report revealed that 25 percent prefer Instagram, compared with 24.4 percent who picked Facebook as the top choice, and 23.3 percent chose Snapchat. The answers reveal that although younger consumers turn to mobile social platforms, they’re also regularly accessing Facebook.

The preference for Facebook becomes more pronounced when one looks at older consumers. Both Gen X and Baby-Boomer respondents ranked YouTube as the No. 2 most-preferred platform, but 54 percent of Gen X consumers favor Facebook. The percentage is even higher when it comes to Baby Boomers.

What does that mean for PR and marketing pros? Don’t ignore the power of Facebook.

Though it’s a struggle to nab organic reach on the platform, having an active presence can give brand managers many opportunities to interact with consumers and increase leads and sales. However, don’t make Facebook your only focus.

Sprout Social reported:

The Facebook Generation is officially every generation. But when it comes to your brand’s social strategy, one social network should never reign supreme. Plus, if the behavioral patterns Millennials are demonstrating are any indication, younger generations will be more willing to split their time equally across a wide range of social communities.

Craft content specific to your audience and the platform to which you’re posting—and don’t forget to use visuals. (Video content will net you the most reach on Facebook.)

Sprout Social advised:

… Start by identifying a growth audience that makes sense for your brand. Gain a clear understanding of why you’re trying to reach them and what your goals are for targeting this age group. From there, strategize and plan against one of the social networks they prefer and adjust your strategy accordingly.

2. More than half of consumers are willing to connect with your brand online.

The report revealed that 58.9 percent of millennial consumers—along with 50.4 percent of Gen X and 55 percent of Baby Boomers—often follow a brand on social media before buying a product.

This evidence can give you the confidence to move forward with your social media marketing plan, but take heed: Each generation looks for a different experience.

Sixty percent of Baby Boomers follow brands for deals and promotions, and 53 percent seek information. More than half (58 percent) of Gen X consumers also look for deals, but 41 percent will follow your brand online for a contest.

In contrast, millennials seek information (41 percent) and entertainment (38 percent). That’s probably why the snark dished by social media teams such as Wendy’s gains admiration among younger consumers.

The differences between generations continue with how often they engage with brands and what turns them off.

For example, millennials are twice as likely as other consumers to communicate with brand managers through social media as by email or phone—and Gen X consumers are 160 percent more likely to unfollow brands that voice opinions opposite of their personal beliefs or that say something they deem offensive.

The key to a successful social media presence is listening to and understanding your audience. They should dictate the type of content you create, along with where (and how often) you share it.

Sprout Social said:

In order to give your audience what they want you need to understand who they are and what they’re looking for first. On Facebook, your brand’s audience makeup might look drastically different than it does on Pinterest. Your social content strategy, publishing patterns and brand messaging should reflect that difference. Your marketing strategy needs to be cohesive—not definitive.

3. Following isn’t everything—but it means a lot.

PR and marketing pros can get wrapped up in social media “likes,” views, shares and retweets, instead of measuring the true effect their efforts have on boosting their respective organizations’ bottom lines.

Though measuring the proper social media analytics is essential, your follower numbers can also translate to money in the bank.

Overall, 62 percent of survey respondents said they are either likely or somewhat likely to buy from a brand they follow online. Consumers’ inclination to buy increases by 14 percent after they’ve had a positive interaction with a brand online.

To take advantage of this information—and to get approval from your organization’s executives—PR and marketing pros should carefully position social media’s importance in their campaign efforts.

You should also hone your content marketing and brand journalism skills, because capturing consumers’ attention online can translate into revenue.

Sprout Social reported:

Over 25,000 repins on your brand’s macaroni and cheese recipe doesn’t correlate to 25,000 boxes of pasta sold. A Facebook fan base of upwards of one million doesn’t mean you’ll be named to the Fortune 500. …[T]hat doesn’t mean a follow has no value.

… With such a staggering percentage of individuals willing to buy, you need to put effort into unearthing what types of social content will push them over the edge to purchase.

How does this report match up with your online interactions with consumers, Ragan readers? What will you do differently?

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