“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is,” Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit once famously said.
Before consumers make buying decisions, they talk. Online AND Offline – through social media, product reviews, face-to-face or via Zoom, FaceTime, by text or IM, or via whatever channel – we all seek recommendations, feedback and validation in our choices of products, entertainment and services. These conversations, reviews and the counsel of our peers have enormous impact on consumer choices and thus on brands in terms of sales, brand health, and other KPIs.
As a brand or marketing leader and professional, do you have confidence to back up and support that consumer conversations drive revenue?
Research by Engagement Labs published in the MIT Sloan Management Review shows that both online and offline conversations are important drivers of purchase. On average, 19% of all purchases are driven by conversations, including 10% driven by offline conversations and 9% by online ones.
The online and offline conversation channels are not at all correlated in most instances, so strategies to activate both are key. In addition, we find that one-quarter of the impact of advertising on sales occurs by causing consumers to talk about the brand.
The takeaway: it’s imperative that brands who seek to drive revenue with social influence don’t rely on social media alone. You need a holistic social strategy—measure BOTH offline and online conversation data. Social media alone will get you part way there, but only an integrated strategy will allow you maximize the power of social influence.
6 Ways to Drive Brand Conversation
Start With a “Talkworthy” Story.
Do you have a story that’s worth sharing, and easy to share? Make sure your marketing, whether on broadcast or OTT, digital, in-store, OOH or wherever you are communicating gives content that people will be eager to share. Make this something you test for and measure.
Target the Talkers.
It’s one thing to focus on marketing to new prospects, but it’s the people sharing positive word of mouth that will have the greatest impact on your sales. Many of them are already customers who possess considerable “social value” in terms of their ability to drive trial across their personal social networks. Identify your advocates and make them a central part of your marketing activity, giving them new reasons to recommend you.
Change Your Perspective on Influencers.
When you think influencers, think of everyday peer influence and micro influencers. Celebrities with the large followings on Instagram and TikTok are seductive to many marketers who want to pay them to get their message out. But far more influence comes from the “everyday influencers,” the friend we all know keeps up with what’s new and becomes our go-to-source for advice before we buy. Make sure you know where your brand stands among these real-world influencers and focus on sparking them to spread the word.
Reach People When They are in a Social Context.
When people consume media, watch a football game, attend an event or in general are gathering together they are far more likely to talk about, not only at the time they are consuming it but in the days that follow. If you want to amplify your paid and owned media, then media planning for consumer conversation is a critical priority.
Convert URL to IRL, and Vice-Versa.
Upwards of 25% of all offline conversations now include people talking about what they see in digital media. It’s a clear reflection that consumers move seamlessly between their offline and their online worlds. Brands must do so as well. Break down silos. The #1 digital driver of conversation is the brand’s own website. Make sure it’s full of good content worth talking about and sharing.
Retain Current Customers with WOM.
It’s expensive to acquire a new customer. In addition to the role of WOM in influencing new buyers, we have also learned that WOM has an important role to play in reducing churn. When a customer is looking around for a good deal and wondering if the competitor’s offer is worth considering, they check in with their friends to see what they think. Another important reason to make sure your passionate advocates are armed with the latest news and talkable content to share with others.
Consumer conversation data and analytics are vital brand assets. Like any other asset, if you nurture and manage it well, and actively, it will provide great returns on investment.
As a marketer, what are you doing to maximize your brand’s social value?