For brands, online social networks are far from the Holy Grail of marketing. The research is increasingly clear and compelling that for brands that want to be social and generate conversation, a far bigger and more powerful force is real world, face-to-face conversation.
It has been said that online social media is “word of mouth on steroids.” Key to that argument is a belief that online conversations will spread to hundreds or thousands of people (and maybe more) with the click of a mouse. But while that is theoretically possible, it is not the way online sharing usually works. Most links that are shared reach only 5-10 people. And the huge legions of Facebook fans, it turns out, are not so actively engaged with the brands they once “liked.” Fewer than 1% of brand fans on Facebook have any type of active involvement, bringing those huge numbers back down to earth.
Meanwhile, WSJ research finds that 90% of word-of-mouth conversations about brands take place offline, primarily face-to-face, in people’s homes and offices, in restaurants and stores, really anywhere people congregate. These conversations bring with them greater credibility, a greater desire to share with others, and a great likelihood to purchase the products being discussed than conversations that take place online.