• An academic study of 30 of the most popular publicly-held consumer brands on Facebook over a full year period found that consumer following, or fan counts, of these brands exhibited statistically significant correlations with their respective consumer brand company stock prices, suggesting the possibilities of relationships between popularity on social media networks and conformity of social economic behavior.
• Fan counts for the most popular brands associated with small ticket and/or impulse purchases were found to have stronger correlation with their respective stock prices than those for the most popular brands associated with larger-ticket items and/or more complex buying processes.
• Results suggest that changes in fan count trends could signal changes in consumer brand company stock prices, creating the potential for new applications of social media popularity metrics as economic indicators.
NEW YORK, NY, October 20, 2011: A new study on the power of social media popularity, conducted by a researcher at Pace University, in association with Famecount.com, has looked at the relationship between consumer following, or fan counts, of the 30 most popular publicly-held consumer brands on Facebook and their respective share prices over a year period, and identified statistically significant correlations.
The study, undertaken by Arthur J. O’Connor, an IT management consultant enrolled in the executive doctoral program at Pace University in New York City, using data provided by Famecount.com, the social media analytics service, analyzed data from June 1, 2010 to June 1, 2011.
In correlations of brand fan counts and their respective consumer brand company stock prices, 26 of the 30 most popular brands measured were found to be statistically significant. In 19 of the 30 regressions of brand fan counts, stock prices and a market index, both stock prices and market index variables were found to be statistically significant, despite radical differences in many of the stock price performances over the 12-month period, with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts surging 133.43% and Aeropostale falling 33.25%. Statistically significant correlations were also found at six month and nine month cuts of the data, with 11 of the 30 brands showing statistically significant correlation for predictor variables consistently at six-, nine- and twelve-month intervals.
The 30 brand study follows a pilot study of three consumer brands conducted earlier this year, and has been submitted for publication in the Social Science Computer Review.
In further analysis, the study found stronger linear correlation of fan counts to stock prices for brands associated with small ticket and/or impulse purchases (Brand Group 1) than for those brands associated with larger-ticket items and/or more complex buying processes (Brand Group 2), as shown in Figure 1, suggesting new insights into the role of social media activity on consumer behavior.
To test the collective performances of Brand Group 1 and Group 2 brand fan counts and stock prices, data were indexed and averaged, and the 30 brands were sorted into two groups, based on five criteria: smaller versus larger ticket items; predominately B2C (business to consumer) versus hybrid B2C/B2B (business to consumer/business to business) brands or business models; impulse versus planned or scheduled buying behavior; routine/everyday versus less frequent purchase decision, and short-term versus longer-term consumption cycle.
The sorting resulted in 19 of the most popular consumer brands that were associated with smaller ticket and more impulse purchases for Group 1: apparel brands and retailers Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Burberry, Nike and Puma; fast food products and chains Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, McDonalds, Oreo (Kraft), Pepsi, Starbucks, Taco Bell; major retailers Target, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods, and family entertainment brand Disney. The remaining 11 brands were determined to be associated with larger-ticket and more complex purchase decisions for Group 2: consumer electronics and technology providers Best Buy, Dell, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry (RIM), SONY; motor vehicle manufactures BMW and Harley-Davidson; and JetBlue and Southwest airlines, as shown in Figure 2.
“The results suggest the possibilities of new and yet-undiscovered relationships between brand popularity in social media and conformity of social economic behavior in today’s brave new world of hyper-connected consumers,” said O’Connor, the author of the study.
According to O’Connor, since social media fan counts are not widely regarded as an accurate reflection of customer engagement or consumer opinion, they have not yet been studied in-depth by the research community. “This study challenges this implicit theory or assumption that fan counts are not behavioral measures,” he added. “Unlike previous research studies that have analyzed user-generated content or measured user activity for discerning consumer or investor mood/sentiment, this research uniquely explores what brand following, as a construct for social popularity, can reveal about the conformity of social economic behavior, in the form of consumer brand company stock prices.”
Daniel Dearlove, founder of Famecount said “We have been following trends in brand activity across social networks for some time and have frequently observed relationships between what happens on social networks and in the real world. This study provides remarkable statistical confirmation of some of these relationships.”
Famecount is an independent company that tracks and ranks social media fame. It operates famecount.com, a free service covering Facebook, Twitter and YouTube statistics and trends. It also provides groovecount.com, tracking music statistics across multiple social networks and digital services. A forthcoming professional version of the site, Famecount Pro, provides enhanced data and analytics for brands and professional users of social networks. The research study sourced its social media data from Famecount Pro.
With a tradition of practice-oriented curricula, Lubin has achieved national recognition for both its graduate and undergraduate programs in U.S.News & World Report and other media. Approximately 4,000 students are enrolled in Lubin’s undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs in Downtown and Midtown New York City, and Pleasantville and White Plains in Westchester County. Prominent alumni include Melvin Karmazin, CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio; James Quinn, president of Tiffany & Co.; Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon; Marie Toulantis, former-CEO of Barnes&Noble.com; and Richard Zannino, former-CEO of Dow Jones & Company. www.pace.edu/lubin.
The Lubin School of Business recently has earned a preeminent position in thought leadership on the issues surrounding the world’s move to International Financial Reporting Standards, and has hosted four major conferences on the subject which have received extensive industry coverage, including three special sections of the CPA Journal. The school is accredited for both business and accounting by AACSB International, an elite distinction shared by fewer than three percent of business schools worldwide. It is one of the largest four-year, private undergraduate and graduate business programs in the nation. Its dean, Neil Braun, is a former president of the NBC Television Network and former CEO of Viacom Entertainment.
For 105 years, Pace University has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. www.pace.edu