September 25, 2021

When marketers learned of the 2018 Facebook feed algorithm change that privileged posts from friends over other content, it spelled doom for brands’ organic reach. At the time, Facebook said it made those changes in response to user feed preferences, and not even a digital marketing leader would’ve quibbled with a consumer who decried, “too many Facebook ads!”

In 2021, nobody is asking for more Facebook ads. But consumer attitudes around brand presence on social media have evolved in recent years. The upshot is that a growing group of consumers – we call them the Brand-Engaged – is developing a healthy appetite for specific types of branded content on social.

Gartner research has been tracking how consumers engage with brands on social media since January 2019, and our most recent research finds that the proportion of users who follow brands, and the proportion of users who say they like seeing content from brands on the platform have both increased markedly across the 10 most popular social media platforms. Zeroing in on those consumers who are the most engaged with brands reveals that the proportion of Brand-Engaged users has doubled from 10% to 20% of users (an average across the 10 platforms) from January 2019 to April 2021.

Brand-Engaged users are the holy grail for digital marketers when it comes to conversion to sales. More than half said they saw a brand’s post on social media and made a subsequent purchase in the 30 days preceding October 2020, compared to only one-quarter of frequent social media users overall.

Take Two Approaches to Connect with Brand-Engaged Users

Digital marketing leaders can maximize the social performance metrics that matter most to them by taking two actions: targeting the people most likely to be Brand-Engaged consumers on the platforms where they’re most abundant, and building social content that aligns with the preferences of this type of valuable customer.

Brand-Engaged social media users are mostly Gen Z and millennials, more likely to live in urban areas, and more ethnically and racially diverse. To maximize the upside that comes with Brand-Engaged users, digital marketers must locate the “sweet spots” where frequent users, brand followers and those who like to see brand content gather. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube have the highest proportion of Brand-Engaged users relative to their total user base.

Digital marketing leaders will find more opportunities to foster new engaged followers on smaller platforms where users, mostly younger, are more likely to enjoy brand content and relatively few already follow brands compared to other platforms, especially on Twitch, Snapchat and Pinterest. While marketers face substantial investments in creative to consistently engage with users on these platforms investing in rich, creative social executions may be more worthwhile now than just a couple of years ago.

More than others, Brand-Engaged users want to see user-generated, educational and entertaining content from brands. They prioritize such posts over promotions and discounts. This is markedly different from other users, who prioritize promotional content over everything else. Additionally, substantially more Brand-Engaged users say they’re primed to “like,” comment on or share branded content if what brands post addresses issues they care about; supports their views; or is inspiring, uplifting or funny. Marketers’ primary audience for creative, experimental, educational or emotional content, then, is Brand-Engaged consumers.

Brand-Engaged users most like to see user-generated content, educational content and communications and updates from brands on social media platforms while non-brand-engaged users prioritize promotional content.


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