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Study: Strategy key to social media success

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- Using social media to drive brand awareness and sales has to be a carefully thought out process, a new study by J.D. Power and Associates has found.

The inaugural study is based on responses from more than 23,200 U.S. online consumers who have interacted with a company via the companies' social media channel. Fielded from November to December 2012, the study measures the overall consumer experience in engaging with companies through their social platforms for both marketing and servicing needs across more than 100 U.S. brands in six industries: airline, auto, banking, credit card, telecom and utility. The study establishes performance benchmarks and industry best practices that provide insights to companies to help them maximize their social media efforts.

"This is a unique, comprehensive consumer study that defines consumer expectations in the ever-changing social space and measures companies' performances against those benchmarks," said Jacqueline Anderson, director of social media and text analytics at J.D. Power and Associates. "This study provides companies with the framework they need to begin effectively integrating social media into their business strategies. It also illustrates the relationship between a positive social media experience and consumer purchase intent."

The study finds that social marketing engagements vary by age group. Nearly one-third (39%) of consumers 30-49 years old and 38 percent of those 50 years and older interact with a company in a social marketing engagement context, while only 23 percent of consumers who are 18-29 years old interact with companies. In contrast, 43 percent of consumers who are 18-29 years old use social media for servicing interactions, while 39 percent of consumers who are 30-49 years old use social for servicing needs. Only 18 percent of consumers who are 50 years and older interact with a company via social for a service-related need.

"While there are vast differences among age groups in the frequency of servicing and marketing engagements, there is a consistency in the impact on brand perception and purchase intent through both types of engagement," said Anderson. "Companies that are focused only on promoting their brand and deals, or only servicing existing customers, are excluding major groups of their online community, negatively impacting their satisfaction and influencing their future purchasing decision. A one-pronged approach to social is no longer an option."

The study finds a correlation between overall satisfaction with a company's social marketing efforts and consumers' likelihood to purchase and their overall perception of the company. Among highly-satisfied consumers (satisfaction scores of 951 and higher on a 1,000-point scale), 87 percent indicate that the online social interaction with the company "positively impacted" their likelihood to purchase from that company. Conversely, among consumers who are less satisfied (scores less than 500), one in 10 consumers indicate that the interaction "negatively impacted" their likelihood to purchase from the company.