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23 October 2013

Why an offline conversation strategy is key to make your brand successful

In today’s world, online media are extremely important. No doubt about that an online conversation can reach hundreds, even thousands (and many more) with just one simple click. We all know some famous online campaigns that went viral, but overall, this remains quite exceptional. Some viral campaigns became a worldwide hit, many more other trials were not picked up at all.


In reality, online sharing usually doesn’t work like that. Most links that are shared via social media only reach 5 to 10 people. And the large majority of Facebook ‘fans’ – what’s in a name – are not at all actively engaged with the brands they once ‘liked’. Research conducted by Ed Keller and Brad Fay, worldwide appreciated experts in word-of-mouth marketing and authors of the book ‘The Face to Facebook’,  shows that less than 1% of brand likers on Facebook have any kind of active online involvement with that brand[1]. Please take a look at a random Facebook page of a brand with at least 50.000 likers, and reality will confirm this. 

Another conclusion coming from the same research is that, even in today’s digital world, online conversations are only the top of the iceberg. 90% of all conversations about brands take place offline. People still prefer to talk to each other in bars, at the coffee machine, in the canteen of their sports club, etc…

These conversations can be seen as the greatest credibility drivers for your brand: time after time, the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Study[2] confirms that peer to peer recommendations are the most trustworthy medium on earth. Next to credibility, offline conversations also add relevance to a product, since people won’t talk about products which are completely irrelevant to them. And this has a direct impact on purchase behavior: if one of your personal acquaintances recommends you a product, chances are significantly higher that you will also consider that product when you encounter a similar need. 

Ok, sounds good. But how can you influence this process as a marketer? How can you spark conversations between consumers?

Next to a positive product experience, the most effective channel to trigger peer-to-peer conversations is not via online social media, but via paid advertising. One quarter of conversations about brands include an explicit reference to a traditional advertising campaign. Television ads are not only boosting awareness, but are also the biggest driver for consumer conversation.

And people don’t only talk about the latest technological innovations. Products used in your daily life often have a high and underestimated conversation potential. Think about those aspects which make your product worth talking about – these might be things that seem quite banal at first sight – and stress these in your communication plan.

When thinking about future communication strategies, we should realize that liking and sharing are terms that already existed long before we heard about online social media.  And in an offline context, these words have so much more impact than a click will ever have. So dare to challenge your social media strategy, and focus on these aspects which are adding a maximum of value to the relationship with your consumers. 


[1] The Face to Facebook – Keller & Fay (2012)

[2] Nielsen – Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages