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Reaching Affluents on Social Nets

Can luxury brands make friends?

March 8, 2010

Most wealthy Internet users in the US are optimistic about the economy going forward, according to Ipsos Mendelsohn, and their online spending has historically been higher than average.

That should make them attractive to retailers, which are increasingly turning to social networks to attract customers. But will affluents be as receptive to social marketing as other Web users?

Based on a study from Unity Marketing, the outlook is mixed. Most affluents use social networking sites to hear about their friends and family and reconnect with old friends—not to connect with brands. Just 7% logged on to look for offers or research purchases, while 6% went social to share or buy products or look for coupons.

Reasons that US Affluent Consumers Use Social Networking Sites, January 2010 (% of respondents)

According to Unity, affluents have a different relationship with brands on social networks: They like to check out fan pages but do not necessarily want to take the step of friending brands. The majority of affluent social networkers have viewed brand pages, but only one-quarter have become a follower or joined a group.

Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, advised luxury brands to maintain relationships in other ways and look to visits to fan pages rather than followers as measures of engagement.

“Building and maintaining a relationship with your affluent customers is critical,” said Ms. Danziger, in a statement. “Brands need to think of the social networking aspect of their own websites. They don’t need to have a Facebook page to ‘friend’ an affluent shopper. Brands can friend their customers through positive and supportive online interaction on the company's primary website.”

A January 2010 Edelman report also put a damper on social marketing to the upper-income consumer. The firm found that among informed Internet users in the top 25% of household income, only one-quarter trusted their friends and peers for company information. “Affluent consumers may not necessarily respond to common social marketing tactics,” said eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “Smart marketers will segment their social marketing efforts, customizing their communications and offers based on the audience they want to target.”

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Check out today’s other article, “Staying Relevant with Targeted E-Mail.”


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