What does it mean to be engaged on social media? According to a recent J.D. Power and Associates study, the answer is more nuanced than just having a company profile.  The J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Social Media Benchmark Study provided insight into what successful social media marketing practices looked like, and just how important it is to have a robust social media presence. The bottom line? Social media marketing matters.

The link between social media marketing and purchasing decisions

First off, the survey reinforced a long-held belief: the overall satisfaction with a company’s social marketing efforts correlates with a consumer’s perception of the company and one’s likelihood to buy from the company.  87% of “highly-satisfied” consumers stated that the social media interactions “positively impacted” their future purchasing decisions from the company. Of course, this relationship works in the opposite way as well, with 10% of consumers unsatisfied with their social media interaction stating that there were less likely to purchase from the company.

Social media marketing vs. social media servicing

Beyond establishing the link between social media satisfaction and purchasing decisions, the J.D. Power and Associates survey divided social media interactions into two categories to ascertain how consumers valued different interactions. The two categories were marketing and servicing interactions. And, the result was insightful: consumers of different ages valued marketing and servicing engagement on social media very differently. 39% of consumers 30-49 years old and 38% of those older than 50 interacted in the marketing context, while only 23% of consumers 18-29 years old interacted with companies through marketing. On the other hand, 43% of 18-29 year olds utilized social media in the servicing context, while these numbers fell to 39% of 30-49 year olds and 18% of those over 50.

What does this all mean?

The conclusion drawn from this data is that older consumers tend to value social media marketing, while younger consumers are more likely to use social media for servicing needs. Importantly, then, in order to capture the attention of consumers of all ages, a two-pronged social media strategy must be employed. Ignoring the marketing or servicing aspects of social media can alienate a large segment of potential consumers. And, given the strong connection between a consumer’s experience and their purchasing decision, having a social media marketing and servicing strategy that appeals to all social media engagement preferences is key to building a beneficial social media presence.