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November 5, 2014 // 6:00 AM

New Data: Why Your Fans Aren't Following You on Social Media

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social_media_followersWhen it comes to social media, many of us take an “if you build it, they will come” approach. Popular advice tells us that consumers want to be able to connect and engage with brands on just about every platform imaginable, so your brand should hop on any new platform immediately. (What’s your Ello strategy, by the way?)

But does that approach actually work? New research from HubSpot suggests otherwise.

Where Consumers Expect You to Be

Our new study on study based on responses from 569 consumers, The Social Lifecycle, revealed that consumers have high hopes for brands. They expect companies to be present on an average of 3.4 different social platforms. 

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Not surprisingly, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular platforms -- 84% of respondents expect you to be on Facebook, and 64% expect you to be on Twitter. YouTube clinches third with 44% of consumers expecting you to have a presence on the platform.

Then, things get messy: Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ have around 30% of respondents. Their differences shake out when we segment social platform expectations by age group and gender.

Instagram is more popular among the younger set (18-44) while Google+ is expected more from older consumers (45+). But that doesn't mean Google+ doesn't have an age-diverse audience -- while most platforms see a pretty big gap between what most age groups expect and what those over 60 expect, the oldest cohort sits just 1% off from the median when it comes to Google+.

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When we break things out by gender, more differences emerge. While expectations for where brands should be on social media are generally pretty level between men and women, significantly more women expect brands to be on Instagram and Pinterest (which isn’t surprising, given that, in 2012, 80% of Pinterest users were women).

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So it seems like the logical answer to all of these data points would be to be to ramp up your social media presence across as many platforms as possible, right? No so fast ... 

Expectations vs. Reality

You built it, but it turns out not as many folks are coming as you thought. What people actually expect of brands and what they actually do with brands differs.

For example, 64% of consumers may expect brands to be on Twitter, but only 31% actually follow brands that they like there. Ouch. That pattern repeats across every platform we studied: there was a 35-65% drop across the board between the number of consumers who expect your brand to have a presence on social media and those who will actually follow you (even if they’re a fan of the brand).

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Ultimately, while consumers expect brands to be present on an average of 3.4 platforms, they’ll only follow brands they like on an average of 1.6.

Why the huge delta? Are consumers’ eyes simply bigger than their stomachs when it comes to their appetite for social media? That may be a small part of it, but the true issue is that what brands are serving up often isn’t very appetizing.

Closing the Gap: The Takeaways

Enough doom and gloom -- what can we do to actually make all 3.4 platforms that consumers expect from us valuable and worth following?

1) Make sure you’re focusing on the right platforms.

For many marketers, Facebook and Twitter are already givens (and our data reinforces that they probably should be), but after that it can be hard to decide where to focus your energies. That’s where clear buyer personas can help determine if your ideal customer is a Pinterest addict or a die-hard YouTube watcher.

2) Don’t be a broken record.

If you’re posting the exact same things on every platform there’s no reason anyone would follow you on more than one. Optimize your content and the way you present it for each network. Your LinkedIn followers and your Instagram followers likely match different personas and expect different things from your social media posts. Pet Supplies Plus does a good job of laying out what’s in it for the follower on each of their platforms:

3) Let your brand voice be human.

Consumers often want to engage with brands on social because they want to deepen the connection they feel to products that they love. If the passion that goes into your products is absent from your social presence, it’s no surprise that you won’t resonate with your fans.

The Rest of the Data

Want more insights for marketing, plus data for sales and customer service from our Social Lifecycle study? It’s all in the Slideshare below.

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