Why We Like & Follow Businesses Online

Filed in Featured, MY BEST POSTS, Social Media, Statistics by Matt McGee on September 8, 2010 21 Comments

heartHere’s the million dollar question:

Why would anyone “like” your company on Facebook or follow you on Twitter?

I’m one of countless marketing consultants that helps clients use social media to connect with new customers. I’ve written countless articles on this blog and elsewhere about the benefits of social media for small business owners. At each GetListed.org Local University workshop, I’m the “social media guy” talking about how to connect with local customers online.

But still, the question: Why do we follow companies on social media?

In a word? Deals.

Two recent studies say that the primary reason consumers follow companies/brands on Twitter, or like them on Facebook, is because we’re all looking to save a buck. But, “deals” didn’t score above 50% in either study, which should tell you what you already know: Everyone’s different, and has everyone has different motivations that guide their behavior.

As part of its Subscribers, Fans, and Followers report, ExactTarget last week published survey results that included the question, What has motivated you to “like” a company, brand, or association on Facebook? The number one answer: To receive discounts and promotions. The number three reply: To get a “freebie” (e.g., free samples, coupon).


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That echoes survey results that were put out last year as part of Razorfish’s annual FEED survey. In that survey, consumers using social media were asked why they connect with brands/companies on Facebook and Twitter. Here are two separate charts detailing the replies.



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As you can see, in both cases, exclusive deals or offers are the primary driver for consumers to connect with businesses in social media settings. On Twitter, the separation between that reason and the second-highest reason (“I’m a current customer”) is pretty dramatic.

Comments (21)

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  1. Chris says:

    Matt –
    I’ve always felt like deals were a big part of why people follow – but have never seen this data. Thanks for pointing it out.

  2. Dena Stern says:

    Thanks so much Matt,
    The engineers I work with need proof for everything so it’s nice to have some analytics to share!

    I noticed that interesting content also ranks pretty high, I would love some more metrics on how that breaks down (original content vs. retweeting/posting other articles) because we do that a lot in our online social media strategy!

  3. Thanks for explaining that. ( I’m not being sarcastic ). I couldn’t for the life of me work out why anybody would hit ‘like’ for a company but I’ve been too embarrassed to ask. It just seems such a naff thing to do. I don’t want to know that you have hit the ‘like’ button. I want you to write online why you like it and give me some real information, please.

  4. BAC says:

    Deal-driven — interesting to see that functions both on FB and Twitter, to slightly varying degrees. Way I parase this is: existing guys (loyalty), new guys (coupons/deals).

    I guess many of us will either latch on to Groupon’s of the world or go direct via FB/Twitter.

  5. Mary says:

    We have become a deal driven nation not too bad for anyone making use of Groupon. People want coupons for everything-anyone selling take note.

  6. This is very interesting. Good information. The question is what’s the purpose for someone to like of follow your business? obviously to increase business. But is it to make the quick buck or do you want a long term relationship with your customer? Like Michael Dell said back in 1999 the key to winning the business world is creating a loyal community. He said who ever cracks that code will rule the internet. Deals are good but won’t address the challege of building a loyal customer base. Like Scott Stratten says in his book Unmarketing, he says”if you believe business is built on relationships then make building them your business”. So, quick buck? Deals. Longterm Business? Relationships. Do you remember the tortoise and the hair? Who wins?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Does it have to be an either/or thing, though, Armando? There are countless restaurants I love now and many of those began with me using some kind of restaurant.com discount or taking advantage of some other special I heard about from friends, online, etc. You can use offers and deals to get people in the door, and if you’re doing things right that can be the start of a longterm customer relationship.

  7. Geoff says:

    I guess a pertinent question would be what makes people unlike or unfollow a business online? If deals and discounts allow you to get your messages in front of people it’s win win.

    I think Groupon is a slightly separate issue – people visit the Groupon site for deals and no other reason. The Facebook data clearly shows people follow a brand or business for multiple reasons.

    I’d love to see a survey conducted in that way applied to Twitter as the Twitter and MySpace data appears to be either/or choices (not that the data is not interesting and relevant).

    Great post Matt. Thanks for contributing.

  8. Seth Elliott says:


    Applause for collating this information and presenting hard data that the primary motivator for consumers paying attention to many brands on Social Media is simply to save money.

    While the data is still “young” it certainly raises a question about the “content is king” mantra in regards to branding in the social media space.

  9. Cindy Lavoie says:

    It’s good to see some survey numbers on this. I’ve certainly always felt that deals & coupons were key to gaining Facebook “likers” — but Twitter, that’s a surprise. Seems like this whould be more of a B2C phenomenon than a B2B. I tend to think B2B folks are looking more for “free” information than for deals. But survey indicates only 22% of Twitter followers are interested in content. Hmmm.

  10. Keri Morgret says:

    I was at a buffet last weekend (in SF Bay Area), and they had a sheet of paper taped to the wall with a Twitter logo and the message said “Have a twitter account? Follow us at restaurantname at Twitter and receive special discount twits (sic)”.

    I went to their Twitter account, and they’ve only done six tweets in the year they’ve been active, they have all of 27 followers, and they haven’t updated since June. They promised to show me the money, they didn’t show me anything, and didn’t get a follow. I thought it was great that they were promoting their account, but was surprised when I saw they were doing nothing with it.

    It’d be interesting to ask the same questions of businesses — what do they expect to gain out of having followers on Twitter and Likes on Facebook.

  11. Thanks for the statistics. I have grown my following slowly because I want to make sure we are somehow related – either by niche or by knowing someone.

    It’s good to know about the deals. I have not offered deals for my twitter followers. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

  12. Karen Scharf says:

    Great post as always! Thanks for the data, Matt! I have always thought that it was deal-driven and having this data to back it up is great. Thanks!

  13. Raj says:

    That’s the reason there is a saying, ‘give before you get’. Business, especially small businesses can make a successful run in their social activities if they provide some very useful and interesting deals.

  14. Ross says:

    Hi Matt,

    Interesting survey result. These might just bring a bit of change in terms of the approach of companies especially on how to effectively utilize Facebook or Twitter for some marketing gains. A valuable post. Thanks.

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