NEW YORK: Brands should prioritise targeting "influencers" over attaining mass reach in their social media strategies, a report from Discovery Communications has suggested.

The US broadcaster, owner of media properties including Discovery Channel and TLC, indicated that "active socials" are key drivers of general perceptions about a brand on social media platforms.

These users "are providing their brand opinions on an ongoing basis, building up an expectation among their communities that they are 'in the know' — whether they have positive or negative impressions," the report added.

"Brands that want to influence the influencer, can design programs that target the active 'likers' as a starting point, but realistically need to dig deeper to find those with affinity for the brand."

Active followers of brands form a minority of the total membership of social networks. A poll conducted for the Discovery report indicated that, while around 80% of Facebook and Twitter users have signed up for updates from at least one brand, just 28% follow 20 or more brands.

Moreover, only 22% said that others ask them their views on what products or services to buy.

Functional benefits, rather than engaging in conversation, also appear to be more important motivation for a user to follow a company.

The most commonly-cited reason among poll respondents for interacting with brands on social networks was entering a competition (54% of the total), well ahead of commenting on (36%) or sharing (32%) a brand's status update or tweet.

More encouragingly, around 40% said they have previously "Liked" a status update specifically to alert their Facebook friends about a brand.

Data sourced from Media Post/Discovery Communications; additional content by Warc staff