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Social Media case study: Broadcast vs. Engagement in forums

There is a lot of discussion going about these days about the difference and effectiveness of broadcast and engagement styles of marketing.

Broadcast is the bastion of old school marketing. We still see it used extensively in the new "social media" arena primarily because it is less expensive, familiar and to some degree effective. However, if social media has a mantra at all, it is "engagement".

Engagement is the "social" part of social media. Where two individual (even if one individual is a multinational) can come together and have conversations. This theoretically creates a more powerful bond between consumer and brand which then compels (or propels) the consumer into spreading the brand's joy far and wide with no further motivation than the satisfaction of "engagement".

Well is there any truth to this? I for one sure hope there is. I have never been a fan of advertising and I am one of the biggest proponents of social media.

We conducted a 8 week longitudinal study testing the effectiveness of broadcast vs engagement marketing techniques in forums and on Twitter. This is an "early days" study, and so the experimental design is rough. Below describes the Forum study the Twitter analysis will be presented at anther time.

Over a 8 week period approximately 200 forum entries were posted to over 150 different English language forum sites each week. For the first 5 weeks a broadcast technique was used. On the 5th week through the 8th an engagement technique was introduced. There was no activity during the 6th week due to client review. The broadcast technique is described as:

  • Threads were created using statements (not questions)
  • Forum entries were written as a product message without intent to initiate a conversation or get opinion. There purpose was to deliver an informational message.
The engagement technique is described as:

  • Threads were created as questions so as to elicit a response
  • Forum entries were written in a conversational manner. Not all entries contained brand messages
  • Replies to comments from readers were followed up and brand messages were included when appropriate
  • The brand message was included at least once in all conversations


During the first 4 weeks of pure broadcast the view rate remained low in relation to total number of posts. What is most telling is that during this period there were no comments left on any of the forum entries despite the approximately 5000 views.

Engagement was introduced in week 5, however with week 6 being a temporary suspension of the campaign the effects were not reported until week 7. There we can see a significant effect. The view rate shot up to almost 3 times previous counts with out increasing the number of weekly entries. But the most significant finding is the comments. Comments, which were absent from the broadcast phase now represented almost 10% of the view rate.

Whereas it is too soon to make judgments about the effectiveness of engagement over broadcast based on this limited case study, it is clear that there is a definite change in behavior which can be seen in both increase in views and more importantly comments.

Much success,


Join The Conversation

  • Aug 20 Posted 7 years ago chrissfife I can't wait to start seeing more and more studies like this. I know they'll be coming sooner or later as companies and industry research firms start accepting this idea of engaging (or as I say, participating) in the market conversation rather than continuing to market AT people.

    I've been a marketing professional for 14 years and have a master's degree in integrated marketing communications and I also hate "advertising" and other older traditional marketing activities that talked AT people. And I am also a major proponent of social media for business use (and personal use, of course!)

    Thanks for the post and the study information!

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