New York Times READ

Proof that Consumer Conversations Matter: They Predict Sales

Published by Engagement Labs July 17, 2017

Many marketers assume the conversations consumers have in real life and on social media have an impact on sales. But how big is that impact? And, do these conversations also predict sales of a brand’s products and services? These are questions we at Engagement Labs have been tackling for the past year and with results now in hand, it was the topic of our recent webinar (view it here) as we launched TotalSocial® Predict the newest part of our TotalSocial suite. 

If conversations are in fact predictive, then marketers can use the data and analytics to develop more effective marketing plans that improve recommendations and conversational performance. By understanding which conversational metrics best predict future sales, they can pinpoint the specific marketing activities that create the most impact and prioritize initiatives to improve performance. 

In recent years, marketers increasingly have turned to social media for such insights. But we now have definitive proof that relying solely on social media isn’t sufficient. Many marketers assume that because “everyone” is doing it, and because social media posts are “in the moment,” that social platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide an accurate reflection of the much larger conversation happening in real life.

However, we now know this is not the case. As our latest data show, social media is additive, not a replacement, for the larger conversation. (For more about our findings and the myths we debunked, download our new ebook, 5 Myths About Social Influence Online and in Real Life...and 5 Realities.)

Further, we have discovered that the size and trajectory of offline and online conversations are very different, bearing little relation to each other. That leads to the question: Do these different conversational modes also have a different impact on sales?

To find out, we took a deep dive into over 150 brands across different product categories, comparing the key drivers of conversation as measured in our TotalSocial database – volume, sentiment, brand-sharing and influence – to their organization’s key performance indicators.

We hypothesized we’d find some commonality based on categories or product type. For example, all high consideration brands would have the same social drivers, as would all consumer packaged goods. Instead, it surprised us to learn that each brand has its own unique word of mouth and social DNA structure. There was no finding that we could apply to all companies, even within a category: What drives success for one brand is entirely different for another. For example, among four close competitors, we observed that everyday influencers had the greatest impact on sales for one brand, while volume was the most significant driver for another.

We also discovered that conversations are reliable leading indicators of sales, and by using simulations, we could identify how far in advance offline and online conversations could influence sales. What’s more, through modeling, we can also identify which specific social influence metric can deliver the biggest business impact and how large the impact will be on sales be if a brand can improve its performance on higher-priority metrics.

Our conclusion? Every brand needs to learn its unique social architecture to realize its full potential, and measuring and modeling is the best way to identify the drivers that will have the most significant impact on sales and other KPIs.

That’s why we’ve launched TotalSocial Predict, which enables marketers to identify the precise social influence metrics that matter most to drive sales and other key performance indicators (i.e. driving in-store or online traffic). It also identifies specific strategies and tactics that will increase brands’ return on marketing investment.

With TotalSocial Predict, we can now pinpoint for our clients exactly how much each metric—from the volume of conversations, to sentiment to content sharing and influencer engagement—drives sales and other business outcomes, in order to guide them on priorities for improving performance. TotalSocial Predict also provides clients with a simulator that demonstrates how much performance improvement on each of the individual metrics will lead to enhanced sales, further enabling marketers to focus on the most valuable opportunities.

To learn more about the findings of this research, watch our latest webinar, available now on-demand. If you’d like to learn more about TotalSocial Predict and how to identify the most valuable opportunities for your brand, register now for a briefing. 

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