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Why Do Affluent Consumers Connect with Brands on Social Networks?

Motivations differ from general population

Luxury marketers take note, according to a February 2011 Affluence Collaborative survey, wealthy internet users connect with brands on social networks for significantly different reasons than the general population. The social networks they use to do so are different, too.

Among the general population, the main reason cited for connecting with brands on social networks was to receive deals and discounts. This result from the Affluence Collaborative survey backs up earlier research from several sources on why consumers follow brands on social sites.

But according to Affluence Collaborative, this was a much lower priority for the wealthy. Their top reasons for following brands were due to a preexisting affinity for and a desire to be kept informed about the brand. The least-cited reason mentioned by all groups surveyed was to be entertained, suggesting that social media marketers still need to provide fans with value, even if it isn’t directly in the form of a coupon or sale.

These findings coincide with earlier research from ExactTarget, which showed that a huge component of liking a brand on Facebook was due not just to an affinity, but as a means of self-expression for others to see. This promotional desire was more pronounced in Facebook users than Twitter followers or email subscribers. Affluents then, in their “love of the brands” they connect with, are largely acting as brand ambassadors.

On the surface, a November 2010 L2 Think Tank survey might appear to contradict these findings. Affluent members of Gen Y (ages 19 to 33) cited promotions and offers as the main reason for engaging with brands on social media. Women were more likely than men to engage with brands in general and to want to receive offers. However, the survey included those who were “projected to earn $100,000 in the next two years”—meaning the respondents were more aspiring than actually affluent. The second biggest motivator was still an affinity for the brand.

Data from the Affluence Collaborative study also reveals that the affluent aren’t using the same social networks as the general population. Facebook was the No. 1 social network used by all groups surveyed, but LinkedIn and Twitter attracted affluent internet users at nearly double the rate of the general population.

Any marketer targeting affluent consumers needs to know not only where to reach that audience, but what appeals to them. For wealthy internet users, connecting with a brand is largely about the brand itself, not gimmicks and offers. Affluents need to see a consistent message that makes following a brand meaningful for self-expression, just like when buying a brand in real life. Watering down the brand in order to gain a large social following may drive away the very people trying to be reached.

Keep your business ahead of the digital curve. Learn more about becoming an eMarketer Total Access client today.

Check out today’s other article, “Most Internet Users Still Not Willing to Pay for Online News.”

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