You probably know roughly how many friends your business has on Facebook and MySpace; perhaps you brag about the number of Twitter followers you have: but do you know why you're being friended and followed? A new survey conducted by Razorfish, a Seattle, Washington-based digital marketing firm, could shine a light on the reasons for consumer brand engagement on different social media.

The study found that only 25.5 percent of the 1,000 respondents, who were selected for being web-savvy "connected consumers," have ever followed a brand on Twitter compared to 40.1 percent who had friended a brand on Facebook or MySpace.

"I think it's because of longevity. Facebook has been around longer and I don't think every consumer is comfortable writing in 140 character tweets," theorizes Liz Goodgold, a personal and corporate branding consultant.

Despite the survey's findings, some companies have found Twitter to be a much more effective tool for them. "It's so real time, so immediate, and frankly it's a lot easier to come up with content when you're responding to people than [when you're] blogging," says Morgan Johnston, JetBlue's manager of corporate communications and the personality behind the company's Twitter account.

When consumers were asked about their reasoning for both following and friending a brand, the number one rationale was to get special deals or offers, followed by the fact that they were a current customer or were drawn by the entertaining content. Goodgold says, "It isn't necessarily that [consumers] wanted to engage with the brand, they want to get the brand at a bargain."

But Johnston doesn't think that's the primary motivator, and he should know; JetBlue's Twitter account, which it set up in early 2007, now has more than 1.4 million followers. "I think a lot of people tend to go to Twitter for conversation rather than to be marketed to" or get special deals, he says. But just in case, the airline has set up a separate account to clue customers in on promotions; it has a comparably paltry 40,000 followers.

When asked for advice she would give to small businesses aiming to improve their social media brand engagement, Goodgold says smaller enterprises "need to remember not to throw away the personal level of engagement." She feels they often erroneously "try to pretend to be big businesses behind the Web."
Johnston concedes that SMBs have the advantage when it comes to customer engagement, saying that JetBlue has struggled with scaling the personal interactions they try to provide, but ultimately, his advice when similarly prompted is simple. He says, "Quite honestly, don't listen to me, listen to your customers."