Marketers know short-term offers aren't the way to win social media success in the long run, but they may not know that customers really just want to support brands they love.

The number of people following your brand on social media is one of the primary ways to determine whether web marketing campaigns are working. However, conversations about follower growth tend to circle back to the same catalysts: Customer reviews/complaints, offers for discounts or promotions and regular company updates. New data from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth actually suggests consumers may be looking for little in return when they ‘like’ or follow a business.

In fact, the primary reason Millennials subscribe to a brand’s social content across networks is to show support, according to a report from the school’s Center for Marketing Research. By surveying nearly 600 individuals born between 1980 and 2000, the study found most customers want to do nothing more than support a brand. This was the the top reason for following a company on Facebook (86 percent), Twitter (87 percent) and Pinterest (78 percent).

As further proof, brand support eclipsed other reasons that you might suspect would provide a stronger incentive, such as regular brand updates (around 80 percent) or access to coupons or discounts (around 65 percent).

Most customers want to do nothing more than support a brand when they follow a company on social media.

These findings suggest brands might see stronger social marketing results when they focus less on incentivizing engagement and more on relaying value propositions. Perhaps by creating a brand identity that consumers connect with, marketers will see their social growth flywheel. Brafton recently covered the findings from a Simply Measured report that revealed which brands have the best engagement rates. It’s not that these businesses are doing anything radical to attract thousands (and even millions) of followers. Rather, they have fostered an online experience and community that people want to join.

Limited-time offers can jumpstart follower pushes and regular updates give followers a reason to return, but the key to sustainable growth may be more about creating a brand identity that customers love.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.