PARIS: Social networks are becoming ever more important for brands in reaching French consumers, with almost two in five fans of a brand having become customers via this route, research has shown.

SNCD, a trade body for direct marketing techniques, carried out an online survey of 9,486 users of at least one major social network from Facebook, Foursquare, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and Viadeo users. In addition, almost 30 brands from different sectors participated, allowing their customers to be questioned for the Social Media Attitude 2013 report.

It found that "socionautes" were becoming increasingly socialised, mobile and active. Some 63% of respondents were active on at least one network, up from 32% in 2011. And the proportion restricting themselves to just one network was falling, to 33% compared to 48% in 2011.

Almost all respondents used computers or laptops to access social networking sites but the use of mobile devices was also growing, with 62% employing smartphones, up eight points on 2012, and 28% a tablet, up seven points.

Interaction with brands was growing more slowly, with 38% of socionautes being fans of at least one brand, up two points on 2012. And 35% had posted a comment about a brand or product, up three points on the previous year.

The Journal du Net highlighted the fact that some 16% had become customers of a brand through a social network, a one point rise on 2012. Overall, however, 83% of a brand's fans were already customers of that brand.

While a desire to gain discounts was an important factor in becoming a fan of a brand, cited by 86%, non-financial reasons also scored highly. Some 83% said they both wished to give their opinion and to receive advice, while 82% were looking for exclusive information.

Social commerce was in its infancy but there were positive signs for its future, the data suggested. Just 3% had purchased via social media although 26% were ready to do so.

But advertisers might be concerned by a dip in users' willingness to click on social media ads, as this proportion declined from 24% to 22%.

Facebook was far the most popular social network, with a penetration rate of 93%, followed by Google+ (35%) and Twitter (34%). Use of the professional network LinkedIn had also risen sharply, from 19% in 2012 to 31% in 2013.

Data sourced from Journal du Net, SNCD; additional content by Warc staff