Businesses can no longer adopt a trial-and-error approach to social media as all-new research finds a link between social media and business metrics such as consumers’ likelihood to purchase or interact with companies through leading social channels, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Social Media Benchmark Study, released recently. Social Media keyboard

The study finds that social marketing engagements vary by age group. Nearly one-third (39%) of consumers 30-49 years old and 38% of those 50 years and older interact with a company in a social marketing engagement context, while only 23% of consumers who are 18-29 years old interact with companies. In contrast, 43% of consumers who are 18-29 years old use social media for servicing interactions, while 39% of consumers who are 30-49 years old use social for servicing needs. Only 18% of consumers who are 50 years and older interact with a company via social for a service-related need.

“While there are vast differences among age groups in the frequency of servicing and marketing engagements, there is a consistency in the impact on brand perception and purchase intent through both types of engagement,” said Anderson. “Companies that are focused only on promoting their brand and deals, or only servicing existing customers, are excluding major groups of their online community, negatively impacting their satisfaction and influencing their future purchasing decision. A one-pronged approach to social is no longer an option.”

Companies need to understand how their consumers use social media and then develop a strategy that addresses their usage patterns.

“If your customers want service and you’re pushing discount coupons out to them while ignoring their attempts to connect with you, you’re going to end up with dissatisfied customers,” added Anderson.

The study finds a correlation between overall satisfaction with a company’s social marketing efforts and consumers’ likelihood to purchase and their overall perception of the company. Among highly-satisfied consumers (satisfaction scores of 951 and higher on a 1,000-point scale), 87% indicate that the online social interaction with the company “positively impacted” their likelihood to purchase from that company. Conversely, among consumers who are less satisfied (scores less than 500), one in 10 consumers indicate that the interaction “negatively impacted” their likelihood to purchase from the company.

The study also finds that some industries are more successful than others at implementing best practices into their social media engagement strategies than others. When looking across industries, the auto industry performs particularly well in both marketing and servicing social media interactions, the only industry to do so. Other industries performing well are wireless in social servicing interactions and utility in social marketing interactions.

[Source:  “2013 Social Media Benchmark Study.”  J.D. Power and Associates.  14 Feb. 2013.  Web.  18 Mar. 2013.]