Tuesday, December 29

Having Conversations: Online/Offline Works Together


When John Moore, chief evangelist for The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), shared a slide from his presentation deck that places online conversations at 10 percent and offline conversations at 90 percent of all word of mouth conversations, some people mistook the statement as somehow diminishing online conversations. It doesn't.

Even Ed Keller has tempered his firm's research. The only reason word of mouth online is so small with 43 million brand impressions created through word of mouth conversation on blogs, in chat rooms, and on social networks is because the offline measure is so big, with more than three billion word of mouth conversations taking place offline.

However, even this temperance creates misunderstanding, especially when coupled with the Harris Poll (June 2009) cited by Keller. It's problematic because conversations that occur in social media do not happen in a vacuum.

Online And Offline Conversations Are Interdependent

Misinterpreting data has become all too commonplace in regard to social media. And the most common misunderstandings always seem to hinge on someone isolating data in support of or in order to distract from social media. It makes no sense, but it happens nonetheless.

What marketers need to know is that online conversations spill into offline word of mouth conversations and offline conversations have a tendency to become word of mouth conversations online. In some cases, online conversations provide marketers with a reflection of what is being said about their brand offline, e.g., if nobody mentions your product or service online, chances are nobody is talking about your product or service offline.

For some companies, that might be fine, I suppose. There are plenty of businesses that succeed on a small stable of customers or can confine their marketing to a specific proximity around a brick and mortar shop. (My company did for years and years.)

But for most companies, word of mouth means something. And while the reflective nature of social media is sometimes distorted, making something appear more important online than it is offline (or less important for that matter), it's interdependent nonetheless.

Even social media consultants know this to be true. There are several paths to boost awareness online and offline, and not all of them are exclusively online.

• Attending conferences attracts blog readers and social network connections.
• Being involved in associations and organizations attracts blog readers and social network connections.
• Speaking engagements attract blog readers and social network connections.
• Appearing on news programs, being interviewed by the media, and writing guest columns increases awareness.
• Publishing a book, even those that are nothing more than big business cards, drive online readership.
• And so on and so forth.

Conversely, the opposite is true too. A well-read blog or reasonably well-connected social network can elevate the awareness of someone (or a company) so they are more likely to be invited to speak, be quoted, etc.

I've talked with enough very visible social media consultants to know. While many of them credit social media as driving their success, social media represents a surprisingly low percentage of their daily activities (maybe even as low as 10 percent).

Ironically, this conversation isn't new. It has been going on for years and years with different players — direct mail vs. television, public relations vs. advertising, and so on and so forth. None of it is really accurate. Marketing and public relations work best when integrated, reaching people across multiple communication channels online, offline, et al.

4 comments:

Kevin on 12/29/09, 11:58 AM said...

"Publishing a book, even those that are nothing more than big business cards, drive online readership."

Funny (I've seen a few of those).

;)

Rich on 12/30/09, 6:41 AM said...

Kevin,

I thought you might appreciate that. :)

Best,
Rich

Bill Sledzik on 12/30/09, 6:55 AM said...

While your post's message is way larger than this passage, it's too important for me to let it pass without a call-out:

"Misinterpreting data has become all too commonplace in regard to social media. And the most common misunderstandings always seem to hinge on someone isolating data in support of or in order to distract from social media."

Enjoy the new year, Rich. Wish I could join you for those fireworks!

Rich on 12/30/09, 2:28 PM said...

Hey Bill,

The call out is appreciated. Perhaps 2010 will find me a bit more disciplined, maybe.

I hope you will have a great new year too! For me, I'll likely be watching the Vegas fireworks from home; we have faraway but nice view from the second floor.

All my best,
Rich

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