Amid all the excitement about social media, it’s easy for marketers to forget a critical fact:  most consumers are not interested in engaging with brands or businesses on social sites.

Meng Blog 1 saying no.jpgIn fact, connecting with brands is #10 on the public’s list of reasons why they use social media, according to recent research from IBM.   Less than a quarter of users go to sites to interact with brands.  By comparison, 70% want to stay in touch with family and friends and 49% are looking for news.  Even doing research for work is a bigger driver of social site visits than engaging with companies. Ouch.

Consumers who are open to Liking or Following businesses on Facebook or Twitter usually only engage with brands they already love.  But even those passionate consumers are not particularly interested in establishing a deep connection with a company or joining a brand community.  Instead they are motivated first by discounts, followed by purchasing and product reviews.  Community association ranks dead last on their list of reasons to connect.

Difficult as it is to hear, 62% of consumers say that engaging with social media does not increase their brand loyalty.  Half say it doesn’t influence their purchases either. Consumers are notoriously bad at assessing what really influences them, but these numbers should give us pause.

Finally, consumers wish that brands would post less frequently.  Depending on which statistics you believe, the magic number is somewhere between three and five times a week.  Posting more than once a day is a definite turnoff for many consumers.

So, what’s a marketer to do?

1.  Set reasonable goals for what you can accomplish with social media.

Do not commit to bringing in hordes of new brand users, or converting brand switchers and bargain hunters to loyal buyers.  Instead set metrics related to attracting and retaining current users.

2.  Design your social media strategy and tactics with the understanding that you’re using a medium that’s all about supporting friendships. 

Ask yourself if the glitzy new page designs and features such as “like gating” are aligned with this environment?   Or would you be better served by a more informal, less “salesy” approach?

3.  Focus your efforts on providing your most passionate brand fans with discounts and buying opportunities.  Make sure you’re not devoting too much time and content to establishing emotional connections and building a brand community.  Don’t eliminate these efforts but do keep them in balance with valuable offers.

4.  Adjust your posting schedule to reflect that less is more. 

Test what happens if you post less frequently or if a greater percentage of your posts focus on value and buying.