How accurate is social media in measuring real life conversations about your brand?

How accurate is social media in measuring real life conversations about your brand?

I just read a really interesting article by Paul McIntyre in AdNews marketing magazine (21st February 2014 edition) titled ‘Social Media Myths’ that I felt compelled to share, as it relates to many of us marketing our brand on social media.

Most of us measure the success of our brand on our fan base and conversations on social media, but how accurate is social media in representing the real life conversations happening about your brand?

According to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research in August 2013, online social media represents just 10% of all conversations about brands and products while real-life environments still drive 90% of the word-of-mouth (WOM) action. The report concludes that social media does not reflect the types of conversations people are having in their real-world interactions with trusted friends and family.

Life Offline

The Journal of Marketing Research is not the only one to have this opinion with many other brands and social media marketers standing behind these findings. One of the reasons for this is the way in which social media data is measured.

Less than 1% of ‘likers’ of a Facebook brand page have any active online involvement with that brand beyond that one action of ‘liking’. Any only 10-20% of Facebook profiles are public and 10% of those are either pets or fake accounts, therefore social media monitoring tools can only get into a small percentage of Facebook accounts which means those open to the public are probably not representative of the closed profiles.

Another reason why brands and marketers do not believe social media is a true representative of offline public opinion is the motivation behind those sharing and the difference between online and offline word of mouth.

A lot of social sharing is about people wanting to broadcast something about a brand or product which in turn is going to say something about themselves. It’s a badge and a ‘look at me’ aspect, whereas offline conversations (which are mostly in one-on-one settings) are more personal and intimate by nature and thus allow people to share emotions (Keller Fay Group, Adnews 2013). Therefore what we measuring online is a skewed world, a small proportion of the population who are motivated by social signaling.

Real Life Conversations

That’s not to stay social media fans and conversation is irrelevant, but as PayPal Australia Head of Communications, Adrian Christie puts it, companies need to not only partake in social conversations but have to be there in real life as well as the barriers for conversation offline are much more genuine (Adnews 2013).

Do you think social media is an accurate representation of real life conversations?


References – P McIntyre 2013, ‘Social Media Myths’, AdNews Marketing & Media Magazine

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