Why do people follow brands on Twitter?

On Thursday 27th March, Twitter released a blog following research findings from Nielsen about why users in the UK follow brands. According to the study, out of the 59% who follow brands on the micro-blogging site, they do so because they are ‘eclectic, interested in a wide variety of brands ranging from automotive, fashion and finance to technology, video games and many more.’

We’ve seen in recent months plenty of examples of brand accounts that aren’t afraid to talk to their fans and consumers in a personable, informal and humorous way. As mentioned in the blog, @ArgosHelpers is just one instance which raised a smile and gained 1,500 new followers thanks to its epic reply to a customer’s tweet. Rather than simply pushing out sales messages and sharing company updates, people expect brands on the channel to be informative, amusing and creative in their tweets and responses. We are willing to engage and follow a mixture of accounts for many reasons, and as the Nielsen report found, the main reason UK users follow a brand is ‘because they like it’.

Check out the infographic stating the top 10 reasons why people follow brands on the platform:


TMO’s research: Why people follow brands on Twitter

This got me thinking about why I follow brands, plus whether I actually buy products from the company or simply enjoy the tone of voice, personality and content of the tweets. I was then curious to put the question out there and open it up to our follower base on @TheMediaOctopus. From agencies to experts in the industry, people within the Manchester digital community to other companies, the question generated a huge response with some very interesting and varying answers…

Brand Fans: Keeping up to date with news

As the Nielsen report found, it seemed that the most popular reason was because people like the brand and want to keep up to date with product news. For @NickyHumfress and @Dan_OVG, they only follow a select few and ones they use regularly, while @LeeBenecke elaborated that he only follows those who “share my passion for a given product…Brands who can add value to my life as well as sell to me”. @Mike_Ellsmore observed: “Twitter has become the easiest and best place to keep up with the latest news from brands”, something which both @BadManMedia and @victoriacivil echoed.

For @MattSilverPR, following a brand is valuable as an information source: “a lot of the news, products and events from my favourite brands surfaces and spreads on Twitter… surrounding them on social gives me far better insights about them – just like word-of-mouth, but faster and accessible around the clock.” Both @Fayscho and @Sian_OVG share this belief, with Sian saying she follows brands “to make sure my finger is on the pulse with latest offers and events.”

Entertainment: We love amusing content

While only 34% follow brands because they tweet interesting/entertaining content, this seemed to be one of the top reasons for a lot of users I asked. This is the case for @rionnewilliams, @reach_hiral, @CMSocialMediaUK and @SocialSam“For the few [brands] I follow, it’s generally because of creativity or humour”. @PaulBromford agreed, adding that these are brands he doesn’t necessarily use: “I think in most cases that spreads word of mouth and that drives sales.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, @innocentdrinks was mentioned by @ForwardRoleTomo and @victoriacivil as an example of a fun, engaging brand account – we agree they do a great job on Twitter!

Listening to customers: Interactions

A strong response from many followers was the customer service element of brands using Twitter, including @N444TYF, @JamesTorkington and @FayScho. ‘Making a complaint’ was listed as one of the main reasons from @ForwardRoleMike, @MattNavaraUK and @JamieTheColes, seeing Twitter as an accessible medium to communicate problems of a product or service. @SeanPRandM commented that for him, it’s interesting “to see how (if it all) they react to criticism. I like brands that acknowledge issues and try and sort them out publically.”

On the positive side, @JayneKitsch said Twitter is great to get a direct link to someone who can help: “It’s a simple and quick way to maintain a strong customer relationship when done well”, naming ASOS as a brand who do it well. Continuing the theme of interaction, @NickyHumfress sums this approach up well: “I like it when a brand responds to something I’ve posted, brands that interact are key!”, while @Circus_St told us, “Social media allows customers to be involved with a brand without being sold to constantly; the relationship is on your terms.”

Professional use: Insights and inspiration

For our followers in the digital and business spheres, many stated they follow brands for a combination of news, insights and anything that would be relevant to their industry; @JamesTorkington, @ForwardRoleMike, @SocialMediaLond and @JJTipper all said they like to gain insight into business and social activity. Potential partnerships and leads is another key reason, as @Jay_Perkins and @NeoMobile_Group both stated, while @N444TYF and @Fayscho said it is useful for competitor research and seeing how brands promote themselves online.

“Following brands is great inspiration for anyone working in social media, great campaign and great chat,” @Sian_OVG told us, again mentioning @innocentdrinks as a good example. @MediaCo and @Salesfeed also shared this opinion, the former saying: “It’s good for awareness of different industries and a means of generating new ideas for client and brand campaigns.”

Everyone loves a freebie…right?

It was interesting that the Nielsen study found that three of the top 10 reasons people follow brands included being ‘notified of special offers or promotions’ (52%), ‘taking part in competitions’ (38%) and ‘to get freebies’ (33%). This topic certainly generated a divide: @Dan_OVG, @CMSocialMediaUK and @HollyNicol said that offers and discounts were a pull, although as @JamieTheColes pointed out, “I think variety is important, if they only tweet about offers/deals, they get boring very quickly.”

An interesting point was highlighted by @leebenecke, who said, “Brands need to demonstrate a shared interest before they have the right to sell or offer me a discount code.” Meanwhile, @nickyhumfress said that out of the very few brands who she follows, it’s only those “who do not spam my timeline with offers!” It seems there is a fine line as to what users see as ‘spam’ and unwanted messages, to those who love the opportunity to save money and have the chance to enter a competition.

Following brands on other channels

Interestingly, not everyone we asked even follow brands on Twitter, with some like @instruct preferring to go elsewhere to keep updated with activity: “I don’t follow many …too much noise, and if I engage with a brand I prefer other channels.” Similarly, @kitkatgibbs said she doesn’t follow many due to the cluttered space and instead, is “more into following on email and Facebook when observing campaigns and content.” @reach_hiral raised the point that these days, “choosing who to follow is becoming obsolete. My timeline is full of promoted tweets from brands who I don’t follow on Twitter”, which at some point could become invasive.

What can we take from this? Well, it was certainly insightful to get a range of different answers which aren’t too dissimilar from the Nielsen study. Whether you contribute or not , we hope you find this an interesting read and gets you thinking about why YOU follow brands on the social platform. Please do comment on the post or tweet us @TheMediaOctopus with your views and opinions, we’d love to hear!