Over the last decade, marketers have been lured by the promise of what social media reveals about how consumers talk about their brands. While social media data does provide valuable insight and can be a vital component of brand, research and strategy, it’s essential to remember it’s only one piece of the consumer conversation and rarely is reflective of the larger conversation that is taking place.
We often describe social media as being the visible tip of the consumer conversation iceberg. There’s a much larger conversation happening below the surface, comprised of billions of face-to-face conversations consumers have with friends, neighbors and colleagues over the fence, coffee or water cooler every day. And because these offline conversations have the power to drive more sales, they are more important to marketers than those in social media.
The appeal of tracking social media is clear: it’s a quick and easy way to tap into social conversations. But we wondered if it is truly representative of all consumer conversation, so we conducted the most extensive study of social vs. offline word of mouth conversation ever undertaken. The results will probably surprise many marketers.
Our findings debunked five commonly held myths about social media conversations and its relationship to the much larger, yet invisible, conversation that’s happening below the surface. Consider, for example, the following two common misperceptions.
Myth: Social media mirrors the conversations happening in real life.
Reality: Our data show there is little to no correlation between what consumers post on social media vs. what they talk about in face-to-face conversations.
Myth: Marketing efforts that get online influencers to talk about your brand will translate into conversations among offline influencers.
Reality: Your social media influencers are a completely different group of people from your offline influencers.
As it turns out, offline and online consumer conversations work completely independently of each other. They are like two separate and distinct ecosystems, as different as the ocean is from the desert.
This observation tells us something very significant: Marketers need to have unique strategies for driving consumer conversation online vs. offline.
To learn more about the five myths and realities of social influence, as well as tips for driving better brand outcomes, download our complimentary new e-book, 5 Myths About Social Influence Online and in Real Life...and 5 Realities.