Study: Why people are unfollowing your brand

A recent survey looked at annoying behaviors that send fans fleeing. The data suggest, though, that proper techniques, such as engaging your audience with a human touch, can boost sales.

"Unfollow (twitter button)" by nofrills via (CC BY 2.0)

What do your customers really want on social media—and what annoys them or turns them off?

To find out, Sprout Social recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 people to get their thoughts on various aspects of branded social media content. Although the survey pool is relatively small, some compelling trends emerged from the data, and they are worth noting for those looking to maximize their company’s social media presence.

First off, respondents indicated that the most annoying thing brands do on social media is over-promoting.

It’s been said many times before, but social media is not a broadcast platform; it’s a conversation medium best suited to two-way interaction, as opposed to blasting out ads. Yes, social media platforms have massive reach, but you can’t ignore the social element, and you can’t approach it as you would other media options.

Paid ads are a different story, but your social media content, on balance, should not be overly promotional. Sprout’s findings once again underline why.

Other annoyances include:

  • Using slang and jargon. Go check out Twitter profiles like Brands Saying Bae for more context—in an effort to get in touch with the elusive millennial market, some just try too hard. Choose a communications style that makes sense for both your brand and your audience.
  • Lacking personality. If your feed solely comprises retweets or auto-generated messages or inspirational quotes with no context, how can you expect people to align with your brand and what your business is about? It’s important for you to define your brand mission and purpose before building your social media and content strategy.
  • Trying to be funny when they’re not. Similar to using slang and jargon, some brands just try too hard to be the cool kid in class in an effort to gain traction. Experimentation is a must, and it’s always worth trying things out, but you have to accept when it’s not working.
  • Not replying to fans’ messages. It’s somewhat surprising that this didn’t rank more prominently. Then again, that probably relates to the consumptive nature of social media-that we follow brands and organizations we want to see content from, not necessarily those we want to send messages to. Still, this is important to a quarter of consumers, and that is only likely to increase as reliance on social media platforms evolves in our interactive process.

These reasons were also reinforced when looking at why people unfollow brands.

Conversely, Sprout also asked consumers why they follow brands on social media, with “Interested in their product/service” coming out on top.

Many people follow brands to hear about promotions and incentives, and some do so simply to be entertained. That, too, is an important consideration, particularly when you’re looking to build your brand presence.

Gaining followers is one thing, but connecting with your audience, cultivating engaged followers, is far more powerful. If you’re able to entertain them and better align them to your brand and offerings, that will significantly increase the chances that the person will become a paying customer.

RELATED: Attend the Big 5 social media boot camp, with presentations on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

Worth noting, in the reasons people unfollow: “Information not relevant” was the second-biggest issue. It’s important to be entertaining, to provide reasons why people would want to follow your brand, such as promotions and incentives, but those messages must be contextually relevant.

Sprout also found that a staggering 75 percent of respondents had made a purchase because of something they saw on social media.

If you needed further proof as to the value of social media marketing, there it is. With more and more people active on social media platforms every day, it’s become a key consideration channel, a key element in the purchase process.

Sprout also found that most people are likelier to buy from a brand they follow on social media.

The findings basically reinforce the playbook for content marketing: Provide contextually relevant, entertaining content, along with some promotions and special offers, and your audience will be increasingly likely to buy from you.

The challenge, of course, lies in community understanding, in ensuring that you’re delivering relevant content that helps reinforce your brand. Sprout’s data show that if you do the research and can become that key source that people follow, there’s a much greater chance they’ll move to the next stage of the purchase cycle.

There’s a range of other worthwhile data points in Sprout’s full report, including industry-specific breakdowns.

A version of this article originally appeared on Social Media Today.

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