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The True Value of Online Conversation

So your brand has taken off on social media. You’ve got 120,000 Twitter followers, a whopping 20 million Facebook likes, a solid Instagram presence, and are generating buzz on forums and blogs across the web. 

In the last month your brand earned over 40,000 mentions – considerably more than your main competitor.

You’re living by the book and the book says you’re winning.

While the numbers don’t lie, volume of mentions will never tell the whole story.

As any decent social analytics tool will quickly reveal, not all mentions are created equal. There are some conversations that are simply more valuable and meaningful to your brand than others.

So then how do you really evaluate how strong your online presence is?

What social channel do you actually use?

Let’s take a look at an example of a brand that garners more volume but potentially less quality of conversation. The chart below, taken from Brandwatch’s report on Household & Personal Care Goods, shows the volume of conversation across channels for different laundry detergent brands.

Brandwatch: Detergent Brands Conversation Volume Across Channels

Yes, Purex has the greatest volume, but do they really have a larger presence? To answer that question, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

1. Not all mentions have the same life span. According to a bitly study, the average half life of a Tweet is 2.8 hours as compared to 3.2 hours for Facebook posts or 7.4 hours for a YouTube comment. We can expect that the shelf life for blogs, forums and news would be even longer.

2. The reach and demographics differ across channels. The graph below shows how Facebook still dominates Twitter in volume of users, especially among the elderly. What demographics are laundry detergents really targeting?

Comparing Age Demographics on Twitter and Facebook

Taking another look at the detergent graph, Tide has far more mentions across every channel except Twitter and their social media allocation seems to be much more evenly distributed.

Considering the lifespan, reach and demographics across channels Tide’s social presence seems to be a clear winner here.

What are we even talking about?

While sentiment analysis does its best to differentiate between the positive and negative mentions, the truth is these mentions lie on a very large spectrum of human emotion.

Lumping a mention into ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ categories cannot paint an accurate picture – it’s never quite that easy.

A mention that either passionately lauds or vehemently derides a product, cannot be weighted equally with mentions commenting on how funny a brand’s advertisement is.

Just take a look at advertising powerhouse Old Spice.

Old Spice Conversation Categories

The majority of conversation surrounds their creative, unconventional and slightly outlandish advertisements.

Perhaps it was the brand’s intention, but their mentions have far less to do with the actual product than they do with the brand’s advertisments.

While this works for Old Spice, other brands could value conversation surrounding their products far more than those relating to their advertisements.

Yet, either way, it’s important for brands to understand where these conversations are happening in order to evaluate their social media performance.

In a similar vein, let’s take a look at toothpaste brands.

Consumer Conversation Interests Among Toothpaste Brands

Here we see toothpaste brands’ marketing strategies in action. Crest and Colgate dominate conversation around ‘whitening’, Sensodyne and Colgate capture ‘sensitivity’ chatter, and again Crest is the leader in ‘health.’

If Arm & Hammer is looking to establish itself as the ‘healthiest’ toothpaste, it will value these mentions more than others. 

So why does this matter?

The aim of social media should not be to simply generate as much conversation as possible.

That’s not to discredit the 40,000 mentions you earned last month.

Yet before you lean back and declare yourself the social media leader of your industry, you should take a closer look at the true value behind the conversations out there.

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