A brand's image is related to the characteristics of who their fans follow on Twitter, a new study has found.
Aron Culotta and Jennifer Cutler from Illinois Institute of Technology in the US examined accounts of millions of fans of over 200 brands across a variety of sectors on Twitter.
They first searched Twitter lists for accounts that were identified as exemplars of attributes like eco-friendliness, luxury, and nutrition.
Next, they computed a social perception score for each brand on each attribute based on the overlap between each brand's followers and the followers of the exemplar accounts.
They found that their Twitter perception scores closely matched direct survey ratings of brand image on each of the attributes.
"We find that social network connections contain valuable information about brand image," said Culotta.
"Traditionally, marketing researchers rely on customer surveys to gain detailed insights about how brands are perceived - but surveys can be costly and time-consuming," said Culotta.
"Other recent approaches that involve analysing the text of user-generated comments around the brand are limited as well because the majority of social media users do not actively write about brands - and even fewer will write about a brand's relevance to a particular attribute," said Cutler.
Focusing on what users do, rather than what they say opens the door to new insights, researchers said.
"Our automated approach allows nuanced attributes of brand image to be monitored at higher frequency and lower cost than was previously possible," said Culotta.
The findings were published in the journal Marketing Science.