All Media Are Social: The Unique Roles of TV, Print, and Online in Driving Word of Mouthby Ed Keller, July 15, 2010
Tags: advertising, Brad Fay, Brands, Conversation Catalysts, Facebook, Influencers, Keller Fay Group, Media, offline, online, research, Social media, TalkTrack®, Television, Twitter, WOM, word of mouth
If you want your brand to “go viral,” Twitter and Facebook are the ways to go. Right? Well, maybe. But those are only two options among numerous media strategies you can employ.
A new paper authored by my business partner Brad Fay, and Graeme Hutton of Universal McCann, reveals new empirical evidence of how media and advertising drive word of mouth. Presented last month at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Audience Measurement 5.0 conference, the paper revealed a strong linkage between advertising expenditures and word of mouth. It also found that the major media – TV, print, and online – all provide unique assets to marketers seeking to inspire and shape word of mouth about their brands. Both the Hutton and Fay analyses leveraged my firm’s TalkTrack® syndicated study of word of mouth (both offline and online) for major brands in the U.S.
Working with a case study from a UM client, Hutton found that advertising has a large and measurable impact on word of mouth levels, whether the advertising was on TV, in print, or online. He also found that word of mouth from a brand can be impacted by the advertising of competitive brands – suggesting that brands not advertising effectively can find themselves “out of the conversation” when competitors do.
Fay’s analysis uncovered the unique strengths of the major media in generating word of mouth, specifically:
- Print media, both magazines and newspapers, deliver audiences composed of the largest proportions of consumer influencers – the segment we call the Conversation Catalysts™ – among the major media. These influencers, who are more prolific and more persuasive than other consumers, deliver up to four times the social value of non-influencers, according to a separate study we did for Conde Nast.
- Television is responsible for generating more word of mouth about advertiser brands than any other medium. Fully 18% of all conversations about brands involve somebody specifically quoting something they saw on television, usually in a commercial but sometimes something in a program. This dovetails with a new study we’ve done with NBC Universal that shows that television stands out, especially for generating the “spark” for a conversation, either as the commercial is airing or sometime later.
- The Internet is the fastest growing driver of word of mouth, and it is the most likely of any medium to lead to the passing on of brand advice from one consumer to another, to another, and so on. In other words, it is the most viral medium. In a recent study we did for Yahoo!, we found that while about 7% of all word of mouth actually occurs on the Internet, now 16% of all conversations – online or offline – involve somebody quoting content about brands found online.
The idea of “social media” feels new, with so much excitement being generated today by Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other online tools. But advertisers of all kinds should remember what we should always have known – that media and advertising work best when they stimulate conversation.
We first learned this a half century ago, from Columbia University professors Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld. Co-authors of one of the classic studies in communications theory, they had it exactly right about advertising: “Media have only ‘limited effect’ in the process of mass persuasion… Messages are filtered through social networks and vetted in the light of group norms.” Said another way, “word of mouth” is what makes advertising work best.
Their argument was that mass advertising primarily works by stimulating conversations between opinion leaders and other consumers. In today’s parlance, they were saying that all media are “social media” and that advertisers should focus on seeding messages to motivate the already converted, rather than to directly persuade.
Katz and Lazarsfeld had a simple piece of advice for advertisers: ‘Identify the points at which media enter the conversation.” Fifty years later, we’re learning how to do that.