Your Social Media Followers Are Your Best Customers

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The following is a guest post from Joe Chernov. Joe is the Director of Content for Eloqua. Co-chair of WOMMA member ethics panel. You can read more about Joe here:

If you’ve ever suspected your social media followers are your best customers, your instinct was correct. The customers who choose to follow you on social channels are considerably more apt to promote your brand to others, at least, that’s what a recent internal study at Eloqua tells us.

Inspired by a conversation with SiriusDecisions VP Jonathan Block, we decided to shift our focus from the number of people following us and instead concentrate on the nature of our followers. Who exactly are these people who’d gone out of their way to “Like” us, tweet about us and join our online communities? What are they most apt to talk about? And, most importantly, are they good for our business?

We looked for patterns in the most recent 500 tweets mentioning Eloqua, the dialogue on our 1,500-member Facebook Fan page, and the chatter in our LinkedIn Groups. We uncovered some compelling statistics – data that supports the instincts of many social media marketers.

Those who engage with us on social channels have a much higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a popular, albeit controversial, measure of brand advocacy – than our “average” customer. Over all, the NPS for customers who engage with us on social channels is more than 450% higher than our total customer base. We had assumed the NPS for our Facebook Fans would be the highest – after all, the type of content our Fans prefer is more “personal” (staff photos, party updates, employee profiles) than what’s shared on Twitter or LinkedIn. But although Facebook Fans registered a staggering 700% higher NPS score than our total client base, it was Twitter that stole the show. A customer who tweets about Eloqua is nearly nine times as likely to be a brand promoter as our average user.

Before completing this post, I chatted with social media A-lister Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group. Owyang has blogged in the past about NPS and social media, so I figured he might have some insights to share. He certainly did. He told me, “NPS doesn’t take into account that customers already are making referrals. To get a holistic view of customer sentiment, referrals and word-of-mouth, brands must also include measuring the organic opinions of customers happening every second of every day around the globe.” 

In other words, NPS tells us if a person says they would promote a brand; social monitoring tells us if that person actually did promote a brand.

Yet having run communications at word-of-mouth marketing firm BzzAgent, I can tell you that most brand-related conversations still occur face-to-face, and no listening platform can (yet) monitor in-person discussions. So while I agree social media analysis should incorporate sentiment, I still believe the correlation between NPS and social engagement is valuable in that it speaks to the likelihood of brand endorsements in real world conversations as well online chatter.

Certainly, this study only begins to address the correlation between social media and brand advocacy. It doesn’t touch on causation. It’s unclear if our best customers engage with us on social channels because they like us, or if the act of engaging with us induced them to favor us. That’s a question we plan to tackle soon.

What else did we discover in the process of analyzing our social followers? Lots. Here are a few gems.

  • The company’s blog is the #1 trigger for customer tweets
  • Although social CRM and support are, justifiably, hot topics in the media, calls for support account for only 1% of all tweets
  • SMB clients are nearly 2.5 times as likely to create online content than enterprise clients
  • The more engaged the company is a particular social network, the higher the NPS of the customers who are active in that community

Does this analysis affect the way you will approach social media? Have you conducted any studies that advance or contradict these indicators? We’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, the next time your CEO, CMO or Board asks if any of this social media stuff truly matters, you no longer have to trust your instinct. You’ve got data on your side.

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