NEW YORK: Discounts and special offers are the main reasons why "connected consumers" in the US choose to "follow" brands on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, a new study by Razorfish has reported.

The digital agency, part of Publicis Groupe, surveyed 1,000 Americans in an effort to identify the characteristics of "connected consumers", the audience which it argued "our clients are most interested in both understanding and reaching."

These web users have broadband access, spent $150 online in the last six months, regularly visit social networks, and either consume or create web-based content like video, music or news.

Some 84% of this group were found to "rely" on the internet to stay up to date with the latest information, while 76% frequently play back video on services like YouTube and Hulu.

A further 73% regularly visit social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, while 84% share links and bookmarks with friends, 56% own a smartphone, and 55% subscribe to RSS feeds.

Over 40% had made "friends" with a brand on Facebook or MySpace, while 26% are "following" at least one product or company on Twitter.

Among participants tracking brands on Twitter, 44% said access to exclusive deals was the main reason for doing so, a total that fell to 23.5% opting to link to these feeds because they were an existing customer of the brand, and 22.7% in order to view "interesting or entertaining content."

Similarly, 37% of members of Facebook and MySpace that were "friends" with brands wanted to receive deals and discounts, while 32.9% regularly bought the product, and 18.2% hoped to access engaging content.

Some 77% of the panel have voluntarily played an ad on YouTube, with 73% posting product reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp, while 69% read a corporate blog with "some frequency".

Furthermore, 70% of "connected consumers" have taken part in online brand-sponsored competitions, while 26% have attended a "brand-sponsored event" and 24% have downloaded a branded application for their mobile phone.

In all, 97% of contributors reported that a "digital brand experience" had influenced whether they purchased a product or not, while 65% stated that such an experience had changed their opinion of a brand, either positively or negatively.

Moreover, 64% of those surveyed made their first purchase of a brand because of contact made with the product via a website, microsite, mobile coupon or email.

Overall, the 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand ExperienceStudy argued "the best companies of our generation understand how engagement and positive experiences create customers."

"Google and Facebook are experiential brands, as are Zappos, Twitter, Netfix, Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, and Nike," the report said.

"These companies understand that we are living in a world where consumer preference isn't formed in reaction to a message, but through a series of experiences over time."

Data sourced from Razorfish/Scribd; additional content by Warc staff