AdAge reported in March that Coca-Cola announced that it found no statistically significant short term impact on sales based on social media buzz. Eventually, Wendy Clark, a senior marketer from Coca-Cola, wrote a follow up piece to the AdAge story about how important social media is in the overall marketing communication mix. This week, AdAge reported that McKinsey Company released data that indicated that one of their telecom clients suffered an 8% loss in sales based upon negative sentiment in the social media space. For that company, that 8% loss in sales offset their TV ad spend. McKinsey attributed hand tabulation of social media sentiment as the method that got them to arrive at the conclusion that they derived from the research.
What should a marketer believe about the impact of social media buzz?
I believe that the results of social media sentiment analysis and its impact on sales will differ from company to company and from industry to industry. What Coca-Cola will see in terms of results from their social media efforts is going to be different than a small floral shop, a large hotel brand or a financial services company. The segments of the market, the product categories and the buying occasions are different. How people relate to and interact with the content that these companies generate is going to be relevant, as well as the approach taken to generate content that will build relationships that drive sales in a meaningful way.
Coca-Cola’s Wendy Clark had a string of intriguing quotes about the relevance of social media buzz, not only to her own company but also the branding world at large, including:
- “no single medium is as strong as the combination of media”
- “For marketers, this requires having a single, integrated conversation across those screens…..When we do this well, we create significantly higher impact than any of those screens could do on their own.”
- “integrating so many moving parts in real time and with a constantly changing brand dialogue isn’t easy.”
These three quotes support the multichannel marketing approach that our software platform addresses. Keeping a consistent brand message that integrates with all the media channels that a target audience is in while being sensitive to the nuances of each channel is quite a challenge. These quotes speak to the content distribution challenges that organizations of all sizes are facing, including a Fortune 50, global consumer products company like Coca-Cola in developing brand initiatives that will produce meaningful marketing outcomes.
Social media buzz has the potential to have impact, both in positive and negative ways, as sentiment expressed in the social media space reflects real world experiences with the brand. Social media’s greatest impact is not when it is isolated, but rather when the social media component integrates with other components of the marketing communications mix.