The Keller Fay Group partnered with Google last month to conduct some research into what effect the internet & internet devices have on Word of Mouth (WoM) conversations about brands. The sheer volume of brand mentions in the US is impressive – with shoppers mentioning over 3bn brands every day.
For me – ROI is crucial when it comes to WoM so it was reassuring to note that 28% of participants surveyed displayed a strong level of purchase intent and 26% had already bought the offering in question after hearing ‘positive feedback’ from a friend.
Now, where this gets interesting is the breakdown when it comes to the ‘types’ of word of mouth conversations. The analysis reported that 94% of all interactions still take place offline, with 82% happening face to face and 11% on the phone. The fact that this figure is high is a no-brainer as research has always shown that the majority of word of mouth conversations occur face-to-face. What is interesting is the following out-take:
The internet – including social networks, forums and blogs – took just a 5% share on this metric.
On first impressions such a low figure looks misleading – isn’t everyone on that thing called Facebook talking about brands? And then I had an ‘AHA’ moment. This research is focused purely on ‘conversations’. Now while I’m all up for generating branded ‘conversations’, isn’t it more important that we focus on advocacy here? If I owned a brand I’d want people to be ‘advocating’ my product online – not just talking about it. And this is where I think this report can be taken out of context. I wonder if the 5% figure takes into account the following ‘recommendations’ that consumers may make about brands online?
1) Facebook Places / Foursquare check-ins at branded spots (clear form of endorsement)
2) Automated share messages generated on Facebook/Twitter as a result of entering a branded competition / sharing a branded asset
3) Facebook likes on branded pages (this is a no brainer and a clear measure of advocacy)
4) Facebook reviews
7) Sharing /posting branded links/content in social networks
While these are not classed as ‘conversations’ they still have a huge amount of value for clients looking to create buzz about their products online. We’ve all seen the latest stats on the value of a ‘like’ which according to Spinback & Buddymedia are sitting at around $2.10 in incremental sales for every like. And let’s not forget about Facebook Reviews – power reviews are currently valuing each Facebook review for as much as $15.72.
Plus, call me an optimist but this in-fact strikes me as a rather large opportunity for brands. If only 5% of current conversations are created online then there’s a huge opportunity to increase this figure through bespoke word of mouth / advocacy campaigns.
If you read on, slide 17 presents us with the finding that ‘Search impacts conversations more than any online source’. Now I’m not a conspiracy theorist but this is hardly surprising – coming from Google (who partnered the research and later state that ‘Google is the leading search site for informing WOM conversations’).
I do actually think they raise a valid point here though and that is – the power of search when it comes to WoM. And this is something that is often overlooked. The report states that ‘After talking about a brand, users are more likely to search online than visit social media sites’. This makes sense. Why only focus on creating the initial brand recommendation or conversation? We need to convert this to a sale after-all.
A technique that we use is to run integrated advocacy campaigns where a sizeable consumer advocate team are engaged to create initial ‘brand mentions’ – and then a team of consumer bloggers are engaged to pack a punch when it comes to search and converting those tier 2 message recipients into sales. This process looks something like this:
By engaging a team of consumer bloggers to support the brand / product we can influence search at the secondary level and this is where WoM campaigns can get really smart.
Interestingly, the report also states that ‘word of mouth impressions generated by search are 25% more credible and 17% more likely to lead to purchase than those generated by online sites.’
The opportunity is quite clearly there for forward thinking brands to stimulate WoM online, the question is are you taking advantage of it?
You can view the full Keller Fay / Google Research here.