Social media interactions play a vital role in shifting attributes such as sentiment, recommendation, propensity to trial new products and brand loyalty, according to research by social media specialists TAN Media. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

A recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) showed that such networks are particularly effective when it comes to driving brand sentiment, enhancing consumer engagement and increasing brand loyalty.

Interactions through social media also have a profound effect on the behaviour of a customer. For instance, 90% would recommend a brand after interacting on social media, while 80% would be more inclined to buy a brand more often in the future after being exposed to a brand's social media presence.

In addition, 83% of consumers exposed to social media would help a brand by trialling one of its products.

The research, which was based on more than 4,500 quantitative survey responses via the IAB's social media pages over an eight week period, and supplemented with a further 800 research panel interviews, measures the impact of social media at various stages in the purchase funnel.

Kristin Brewe, Director of Marketing & Communications at the IAB and Chair of the Social Media Council, hailed the positive influence that social media can have on a brand's performance. "The study shows that, when trying to create deeper emotional connections with consumers, social media is an essential channel for brands," she said. "This isn't surprising since social media is the only channel where it's possible for brands and consumers to have meaningful two-way conversations, making the strength of connections that much stronger."

All brands in the research enjoyed uplift in affinity and loyalty after implementing social media campaigns to their strategies. Heinz experienced an increase in sentiment of 22%, while Twinings and Kettle saw rises of 19% and 17% respectively.

Adam Rock, managing director for TAN Media, highlighted the importance of social media for relationship building with customers: "Is now more important than ever for brands to engage in a two way conversation with consumers. Building trust and loyalty through social media is vital to the future success of business".

Social media played an important role throughout the traditional purchase funnel and delivered a clear return on investment. The IAB revealed that for every £1 spent in social media, a potential value of £3.34 could be generated.

In terms of top level awareness, brand metrics for consumers who were exposed to social media were stronger and more stable than for the consumers who were not. For example, there was a 21 point difference in likelihood to recommend Kettle between those exposed to social media and those who were not and this was less likely to fluctuate over the eight week study period.