New York Times READ

HBR Cites Engagement Labs saying: “Don’t Believe Everything You Hear” in Social Media

Published by Engagement Labs October 31, 2018

HBR Summarizes Growing Evidence that Marketers Should Pay Attention to Offline as well as Online Consumer Conversations


The Harvard Business Review has just published a summary of the evidence piling up in support of a central tenant of the Engagement Labs story:  Social media conversations about brands do not reveal much about the harder-to-measure offline conversation about brands. Therefore, brands need to measure both types of consumer conversations and sentiment.

As HBR contributor Joe Panepinto wrote in his October 17 online article, “don’t believe everything you hear" in social media is good advice — especially in an era of fake news and alternative facts. The same goes for marketers who often rely on social-sentiment analysis to get a handle on what consumers think of their brands.

Panepinto cites both his own work and an award-winning 2017 analysis by Engagement Labs in describing the sharp disconnect between consumer sentiment measured in social media versus conversations and recommendations that happen face-to-face.  He also cites Engagement Labs’ work on brands embroiled in political controversy such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Nike.

“There appears to be very little predictive power between how people appear to feel online and how consumers who have experiences with those brands rate them,” writes Panepinto.

“We think social-sentiment analysis has value as a part of a brand’s consumer intelligence plan, but we have some advice for those using it or about to embark on the journey.”

Panepinto, who is an SVP at the Jack Morton agency and an adjunct professor at Boston University offers advice such as reacting, but “react but don’t over-react” to social media controversies.  He also recommends lining up social media data to other sources of data, which is what Engagement Labs does with its TotalSocial® platform which compares online social media conversations to offline conversations collected via a tracking survey of consumers.

The HBR writer concludes: “while there’s a ton of discussion about fake news and the role of bots and trolls in political news, we found an equally cautionary tale for brands. When it comes to social sentiment, listener beware.”  We couldn’t agree more.

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