Interesting chart from Nielsen outlining responses to the question, “What is the Primary Reason for Following/’Liking’ a Brand, Company, or Celebrity on Social Networking Sites?” At first the answer seems clear: Coupons. But take a closer look:

Just looking at North America 45 percent of people say they follow brands “to receive discounts/special offers,” which isn’t really a shock. Many brands promote themselves in exactly that way, trying to get the initial follow with an offer that can only be redeemed by clicking the like button. What might be more interesting, though, are the responses that I’d say fall into the “organic” category: People following brands as part of the natural ecosystem of the network. Again, in North America:

  • 33%: “I just want to show support for the brand/celebrity”
  • 9%: “To be among the first to get news or updates on the brand/celebrity”
  • 2%: “One of my social networking friends recommended I follow/like it”
  • 2%: “I happened to notice that one of my social networking friends followed/liked it”

Put all those responses together and you’re at 46 percent, one point higher than the coupon responses.

While all this is interesting, I still think the bigger question for brands isn’t why people initially follow, it’s how you get them to stay engaged over time.