To which social media brands do consumers feel the most attachment? Facebook ranked number one in a Brand Dependence Social Media Survey conducted by UTA Brand Studio in partnership with uSamp, a technology and consumer sampling company. Laurence Vincent, chief brand officer of UTA Brand Studio, the brand strategy arm of United Talent Agency, will present the findings of the survey at SXSW March 7.
And we're not talking about "liking," apparently. To clarify, attachment, which is at the core of Brand Dependence research methodology, refers to the degree to which consumers believe a brand is like themselves and the degree to which thoughts and feelings about a brand come to mind, Vincent explains. Academic research led by C. Whan Park and Deborah MacInnis, who teach marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business and now consult on Brand Dependence studies, has convinced Vincent that brand surveys based on attachment are more valuable in terms of predicting customer loyalty and customer evangelism than those based on traditional attitudinal-based research.
Now, back to the results of the survey: Facebook was followed by Instagram, then YouTube, Pinterest and Reddit in the February 2014 survey of 2,006 U.S. adults aged 18 and up.
How about Twitter? It’s surprising to see the popular social media platform didn't make the top five. "It was surprising to us as well, particularly me, because I’ve been on the platform since 2007, and I love it," Vincent says.
Vincent reports that 59% of the respondents said they used Twitter, helping it score well in the area of intensity, which measures Brand Dependence amongst people who currently use a product or service. But Twitter didn’t fare as well in the prominence ratings, which take stock of how effortlessly and easily thoughts and feelings about a brand come to mind. Twitter also scored lower on more conventional brand measures such as likability, according to Vincent, and qualitative data revealed that people had a hard time relating to the brand because they didn’t fully understand how to use Twitter.
"I think one of the things that’s interesting is people, even if they love the product, they may not have a connection to the brand, which could be a challenge if Twitter decides to expand and use that brand name in other capacities," Vincent says. "If they ever want to expand that Twitter brand name, they’d have to do some work in order to get people to have more of a connection with it."
YouTube performed extremely well in the survey, with strong Brand Dependence scores in the areas of brand-self connection and prominence. Competitor Vimeo didn’t do so hot—in fact, only 16% of those surveyed had used the video-sharing destination. "YouTube was a rock star in our study, which I didn’t really expect," Vincent says. "But it certainly is a reflection of what’s going on right now with how people are getting a lot of their video content, particularly younger audiences, where YouTube scores very well, going and using that channel as a way to discover content rather than, say, going to their cable box or going to the more direct channels for video."
Among women, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest were the favorite social media outlets. Men liked YouTube, Snapchat and Reddit best, which wasn’t a surprise at all to Vincent, who says. "We’ve seen in previous studies that men tend to be more inclined to rate brands that are connected to content, video content and video game content higher than women do."
Breaking it down by age without respect to gender, Instagram was the top social media outlet for those under 25, with Facebook coming in second and Pinterest third; Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest were the top three destinations for people 24-44; and those over 45 liked Facebook best, followed by Instagram and Foursquare.
Looking to the future, the social media brands that show the most potential in the eyes of survey respondents overall are Reddit, Tumblr, Snapchat and Vine. Vincent reports they all scored highly on various Brand Dependence measures, and he says their shared challenge going forward will be getting more people to sample what they have to offer.