What if Social Media Doesn’t Matter?

April 7, 2011

Guest Post from MotiveQuest CTO Brook Miller (@brookmiller)

As I’ve worked the last 7 years in building metrics and tools to help companies understand the reasons why people do what they do, 3 facts have become evident:

1) Pretty much everyone is online

2) Online communities are reflective of or an enhancement to traditional social relationships

3) People I know are the best source of product recommendations

The digital trails consumer conversations leave online are a good approximation for the world at large.  The latest pew Internet research report show online population reaching  79% of all Americans.  Furthermore, rather than asking people questions about what they think, we can just observe what they say.  We don’t have to ask people if they do or don’t do something we can observe them.

Online communities are as real and vibrant as any other and are built around long term relationships.  Whether it’s a community like Facebook that looks like friendships I’ve developed throughout life or LinkedIn, the connections I’ve made in business, or on a forum like Rennlist, my boss’s favorite Porsche aficionado site, the community is strong and vibrant, with lots of on-going relationships that grow and fade with new people coming into ask questions from experts or lurkers that keep up with the community without contributing or the occasional visitor that just wants to see what the experts think.  These communities are strong, vibrant and have their analogs in social situations in the offline world.

The impact of person to person recommendations is stronger than advertising or other methods of company sponsored communications, when you want to know what car to buy you ask a car nut, when you want to know how to get the best deals on frequent flyer miles you ask a friend with a passion for travel.  Increasingly, though you’d find your friend saying “go look on flyertalk” there’s a thread for that (can I trademark “there’s a thread for that?”).  I was recently browsing flyertalk to figure out international fares for a 2 year old ( I’ve never booked a child fare before and didn’t want to get screwed) while I was there I saw a new miles promo on United it had been posted and had hundreds of comments before it even reached my inbox from United later that day.

Given that people online are pretty much everyone, the communities represent real social relationships and people I know give the most trusted recommendations we should clearly expect to see that a social media metrics measuring peoples’ recommendations to each other would be reflected in sales.

We measure advocacy, which is the number of people recommending a brand above any others, and have seen strong relationships between the metric and sales in a number of categories. (I’ll post more in the future specific to the nuts and bolts of it)

While the scales are different we can see the positive correlation in advocacy and luxury market share for BMW. Looking at the scatter plot and doing the regression confirms the relationship and it’s statistical significance with a p-value of 5% (we’re 95% confident that there is a positive correlation between advocacy and luxury market share).

Given the complexity of the automotive category and the economic conditions in this time frame it’s amazing that a single factor model can so nicely line up.  With an understanding of incentives to dealers/buyers, advertising spend and supply issues I’m certain the model could be improved but at the end of the day we’re validating that social media does matter.

Social media clearly has an impact on sales in this category and others.  Many times the relationship will not be this clear or the category may be so complex that a single variable model cannot tease out the results or there could be errors in the metric (source spam/problems, bad language model, etc…)  but if you believe in the 3 tenets, it’s not surprising and quite intuitive that there should be a link between a social media metric and sales.


Will Obama’s Approval Ratings Dive?

October 13, 2009

We (MotiveQuest LLC) have just completed the third report in our series on the Health Care Reform debate. Because we think brand advocacy is the most important metric for brand health, (we used this to predict the outcome of the 2008 Presidential Election) we decided to take a look at Obama’s advocacy over the course of this very rancorous HC reform debate.

What we see is that the overall level of conversation is down, and some topics have faded (rationing) while others have continued to increase (insuring the uninsured).

Regarding advocacy, we thought that perhaps Obama’s HC Reform related advocacy would be lower than his overall advocacy – but when we compared the two, we found that they are both dropping at similar rates. Since

we have proven the link between changes in advocacy and changes in

sales in a number of categories (Cars, Cellphones) we decided to compare Obama’s advocacy to his approval ratings – the lines are a pretty close match, with advocacy seeming to lead approval ratings by a few weeks. If so, watch out below.

What do you think? Will Obama’s approval ratings plummet further in the next few weeks?


Brand Advocacy Matters

May 19, 2008

Nice article in AdAge about MotiveQuest work with MINI linking brand advocacy to sales.

Linking Web Buzz to Mini Sales

We spent months working with a team at Northwestern University to prove out this measure of brand advocacy – the Online Promoter ScoreTM. OPS is a powerful measure of brand advocacy because when OPS goes up, sales go up 30 days later – and visa versa.

Nice thing about OPS – it is a natural (not surveyed) measure that we can simply observe in online conversations. While it is an online measure – it reflects all of a person’s brand interactions, feelings and experience – online and off. This is an online measure of real-world brand advocacy.

More coming soon.


Conversational Marketing Measurement

April 4, 2008

Brian Morrissey over at Conversation Quotient has an excellent post up about conversational marketing measurement.

Social media metrics are still a work in progress

Here’s the money quote:

“But with the rapid growth of social media has come the challenge of measuring the new ways consumers are interacting with and sharing advertisers’ content and brands. In many cases, the biggest difficulty is not just figuring out what to measure but what to ignore — and how to square the need for metrics-driven accountability with the more qualitative feedback endemic to conversation-based channels.”

There is a measure. We have tested it and co-related it to real world results. It’s called Advocacy.

Advocacy is the willingness of people in the online conversation (blogs, forums, newsgroups) to say “you should buy this thing”.

We (MotiveQuest) worked with MINI and their agency BSSP to:

  1. Understand what drives community engagement among MINI owners.
  2. Provide input for a campaign designed to connect to what the MINI community is most excited about.
  3. Measure the results on Advocacy.
  4. Compare changes in Advocacy to changes in MINI sales.

The result?  When Advocacy goes up, sales go up.  When it goes down, sales go down.  I’ll post that case study soon.