Saving money – still the biggest reason to listen

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Why do consumers follow brands online?

Over the last few days, we’ve been discussing the importance of trust and where to get it online (short answer – from friends) and how charities need to up the ante on social networking to best exploit ‘people power’.

But, while focusing on commercial presence, let’s look at the motivation for consumers to follow brands and recommend them to friends.

When asked of their primary reason for following brands through social networks, a-quarter of consumers claim that they do it to save money.

Some big companies have cottoned on to this РDell offers discounts on new computers through Twitter and have sold hundreds of thousands that way, and there are even iPhone apps (e.g. vouchercloud) that ge0-specifically assimilate local savings.

Others rely on the goodwill of satisfied customers. Apple make excellent computers and have a superb marketing strategy that has delivered millions of brand advocates. They don’t need to offer discounts online – buying a Mac, iPhone or iPad is almost akin to joining a cult.

On the other hand, bad brands will not succeed on social networks. If your product is poor then people will not follow you – worse, if it’s unethical, they may follow you just to out you in public.

Look at the example of Nestle, which joined Facebook in January 2009. One of the world’s largest brands, Nestle posts press releases on its page and has attracted an impressive 104,000 followers. Many of these consumers overwhelmed the Nestle marketing team by adding negative comments after seeing the Greenpeace ‘Killer’ campaign on the use of palm oil in KitKats.¬†In just one month, an anti-Nestle group reached 25,000 fans.

These pressures, combined with direct emailing activities on the Greenpeace website, undoubtedly contributed to Nestle calling for a moratorium on rainforest destruction.

While offering money off is the top motivation for following a brand online, note that many of these reasons are not mutually exclusive. Most companies will try to reach out in more than one way, but they should remember two things:

The best way to do well online is to be good.

The only way to do very well is to be so good that your customers simply have to tell other people.