This week, Coca Cola released results of a study that concluded that online “buzz” has no measurable impact on sales.
That’s right. The company that’s arguably the most “social” organization in the world (with a record 61.5 million Facebook Fans) says there’s no relationship between online generated buzz and sales. (Well, almost. The study did give buzz credit for 0.01% of increased sales.)
So what exactly does this mean? That social media, while entertaining, does not contribute to sales?
For starters, I think it’s important to draw a distinction between social media “participation” and social media “buzz.” Buzz is primarily generated by a single piece of content or single event (think Red Bull’s space jump, written about here). These things are created solely to get eyeballs, and rarely have anything to contribute on behalf of the sponsoring product or organization. Another example would be this Long-Distance Slip-and-Slide video produced by Microsoft:
No doubt about it, this is amazing content. People may like it.. They may even share it. But would you seriously believe a slip-and-slide video would persuade people to buy a Windows computer? Or that a stunt like the space jump, no matter how spectacular, would have people lining up outside convenience stores for a Red Bull?
Social media participation, on the other hand, is not nearly as sexy. It’s not the atomic bomb, it’s winning the battle hill-by-hill. It’s never going to be a trending topic on Twitter. It’s never going to generate 20 million views. Instead, it’s an ongoing effort to engage fans and customers on a deeper level, where they hang out. It’s a way to listen to customers, try out ideas, provide “insider” content and provide one-to-one customer service. Basically a way to help your organization become more “human” for your customers.
What I hate about studies like this one from Coke (and the accompanying news coverage) is that things tend to get painted with a broad brush. Nuance is nowhere to be found. It’s either “this” or it’s “that.”
Successful marketing today requires a complete toolbox of owned, earned, shared and paid media. Attempting to break one of these out to determine its ROI is a fool’s errand.
It helps to think of social as a “trailing” tactic (nearly all people who become ‘Fans’ are already customers, and prefer you already). As such, social’s true value in the marketing funnel is to engage with converted customers on a deeper level, to give them more opportunities to interface with the brand, to shorten the buying cycle, to stem churn and learn more about your audience.
If you still question the value of social media to the marketing process, consider this: the more time your customers spend interfacing with your brand, the less opportunity (and inclination) they have to interface with your competitors.
Posted by Mickey