One of the most important things a brand can do is understand its target audience. What do they worry about? Where do they hang out? How do they prefer to interact with brands? 

When they dive into answering these questions, many businesses discover that social media is a goldmine for their marketing efforts. Not only are social networks a popular place for people to hang out on, but also consumers expect brands to have a presence on social media. (And when people follow a brand on Twitter, 72% of followers are more likely to make a future purchase from that brand.)

To capitalize on these trends, businesses focus on getting new followers in the door — but that’s not all you should be concerned about. Just because you’ve convinced someone to follow your company’s account doesn’t mean they’ll stay.

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In today’s competitive market, retention is crucial. So what causes people to stop following brands on twitter? BuzzStream and Fractl conducted a survey with more than 900 respondents to better understand why.

Why Do People Follow Brands on Social Media in the First Place?

With millions of businesses using social media for marketing, it is a competitive market out there for getting followers. With so many options of brands to follow, our respondents were actually very picky — 50% of those surveyed followed only one to four brands on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

So why do they prefer to follow one brand over another? Our data points to a combination of preference for the brand and a level of exclusivity the company can offer to its followers on that social network. Key findings include:

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  • 16% of respondents said they will follow a brand because they like the brand.
  • 15% said they follow brands to be notified of special offers / promotions.
  • 12% said they follow brands to learn about new products and services.

Freebies and staying up-to-date with brand news also rounded out the top five. And with less than 5% of the vote, providing brand feedback was the least popular reason.

Followers are also looking for specific types of content over others. Over 20% of the respondents said that images are their most preferred content type. Videos and customer reviews tied for second place at 15% each, while company news and white papers took the final spots.

So Why Do People Unfollow Brands? It Boils Down to 3 Main Reasons

1) Too Much Self-Promotional or Uninteresting Content

A little self-promotion is a good thing. After all, why would a brand be on social media if they weren’t there to promote their latest achievement?

However, too much “look at me” is the number one reason why people choose to unfollow a brand. Out of those surveyed, 45% said that they would unfollow a brand on social media because of too much self-promotion.

Self-promotional content provides little value to followers, and the frequency of uninteresting content was also listed as a specific turn off. When asked further:

  • Over 20% of respondents said that they would unfollow a brand on both Facebook and Twitter if they believed the content was boring or repetitive.
  • Over 15% said they would unfollow a brand on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter if it posted more than six times a day.

2) Overuse of Automated Messaging or Lack of Personal Engagement

We see this happen over and over again, and there are lists dedicated to some of the worst automated messaging fails. Over 30% said that they would unfollow a brand if they received an automatic message. In fact, a lack of engagement wasn’t a strong reason to unfollow a brand. When we asked the question further, results revealed:

  • Only 8% unfollow a brand on Twitter due to a lack of engagement, with even less unfollowing for similar reasons on Facebook.
  • “Engagement with followers” fell behind “new content” and “on-brand content” in terms of what followers see as important social media activities from brands.

But engagement is expected, so what do your followers expect? It varies depending on which type of social media account you’re using. For example, 39% of respondents believe a brand is quite likely to engage with them on Facebook compared to 36% on Twitter. And roughly a quarter of our respondents expect a response within an hour of leaving a comment on a brand’s Facebook or Twitter page. Additional data revealed:

  • 16% expect a response within 12 to 24 hours on Facebook; 13% on Twitter.
  • 13% expect a response within 1 to 2 hours on Facebook; 14% on Twitter.
  • 12% expect a response within 30 minutes to 1 hour on Facebook; 14% on Twitter.

3) Improper Use of Hashtags

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake may have famously skewered the overuse of hashtags, but their joke actually does have some merit. What was once only found on Twitter is now on Facebook, Google+, and Instagram, so knowing how your customers expect you to use it is crucial for retention. In fact, tweets with hashtags receive twice the engagement compared to those without hashtags.

According to our survey, 19% said that would unfollow a brand on social media due to poor use of hashtags. Missteps include anything from including too many hashtags in a status update or tweet to using a hashtag that simply does not make sense.

How Social Media Blunders Affect Brand Perception

Although social media practices are important, they have a direct on something that might be even more crucial to longevity: brand perception. Nearly 50% of respondents said it was likely that they would immediately unfollow a brand if it garnered press for poor customer service.

We wanted to look at this further and provided our respondents with five different social media fails as examples of poor customer service. Respondents told us that if the blunder did not affect them personally, they would not take action. A majority of the responses indicated that our respondents would not unfollow a brand because of these particular social media blunders. Other findings included:

  • 16% said they would be unlikely to unfollow a brand on social media if it garnered press for poor customer service.
  • 35% felt that a brand garnering press for poor customer service wouldn’t impact their decision to unfollow it.

What Do Followers Want to See?

Although posting too frequently can deter followers, brand enthusiasts do expect to see a consistency in posts. Respondents indicated that they prefer brands to post on all social networks between two to five times per day, although these preference also vary based on specific social networks:

  • 68% of our respondents said that they would want a brand to post between 1-2 times per day on Facebook; 63% on Twitter; 72% on LinkedIn.
  • 19% said they want brands to post between 3-5 times per day on Facebook; 24% on Twitter; 13% on LinkedIn.

The most important thing to remember is that followers expect high quality content that fits their interests. Social media is a conversation channel, so remember not to overwhelm your followers with brand updates — instead, offer engaging content that will encourage them to share within their own community, increasing the reach of your brand organically.

For more information on why people unfollow brands, check out the infographic below.

Study by Fractl and BuzzStream.

free social media benchmarks report

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