Consumers “like” the fact that brands have a presence on Facebook, but they “hate” intrusions into their news feed from them. That’s according to a new study by Insight Strategy Group as reported at AllFacebook.com.

Here’s what the study revealed:

  • 53 percent of respondents believe brands must maintain Facebook pages for relevancy;
  • 64 percent said they “hate” when they are targeted via their social network profiles;
  • 58 percent find marketing via social media to be invasive.

They Like Us, They Like Us Not

Let’s face it, consumers can be fickle. They prefer to have their hand on the throttle in terms of how they communicate with brands. At times they love you and, at others, wish to maintain their distance.

Does this mean that brands are completely at the mercy of consumers? That’s what the study seems to indicate. Wooing them means to have you learn to speak their “like”language.

The Five ‘Like’ Languages

In his best-selling book, The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman talks about what he refers to as five “love” languages. While the book was written for married couples, the principles taught have relevance for brands that are attempting to court their customers. Here are the five languages cast in a social commerce framework:

Words of Affirmation – According to the study, 55 percent believe that writing about a product, service, or show on a social networking site is the best way to give a company feedback. In return, your fans and followers need to hear that you appreciate them when they take the time to engage. It’s an act of validation that can pay off with increased customer loyalty and lifetime value.

Quality Time – Give customers your undivided attention. Listen to their concerns and respond to questions, and do so in a timely manner. They will appreciate you for it. This also means that you respect their desire to initiate the communication.

Receiving Gifts – 58% of respondents to the study indicated that their numero uno reason for following a brand on social networks is to get special news and deals. Providing incentives such as exclusive offers or fan-first access to a new product, for example, is a way to attract and keep their attention.

In his book Unleashing the Idea Virus, author and marketing guru Seth Godin said there are two kinds of customers: altruistic – those who follow your brand, product or service because they truly love you, and promiscuous – those who follow you because you incentivize them to do so. His advice: pay off the promiscuous.

Acts of Service – For the most part, your customers don’t care as much about your brand as you do. To the contrary, you should have the best interest of your customers at heart and provide the kinds of information they prefer. Live to serve! That’s the mantra of social media marketing.

Physical Touch – While you can’t actually touch your customers in a tactile way, I believe that “virtual is visceral.” Make every effort to connect with customers – especially super-fans – in ways that are personal and congenial. Give them those virtual pats on the back through your attention, time and incentives.

The results of the study provide a clear warning to brands from consumers – we like you and expect you to be there, but let us control the communication. However, I think that by applying these five “like” languages you can appeal to the interests of fans and followers, while at the same time respecting their right to call the shots. Brands courting fans; maybe it’s not unlike a marriage after all.