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April 3, 2008

Social Media Is Where The Conversation Starts

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MediaPost is trying to use a study done by Canadian Pollara as evidence that people don’t trust bloggers or power social media users as much as we like to pretend they do. The only problem is that MediaPost’s logic is completely flawed.

We don’t get to see the actual Pollara data but we’re told that of the 1,100 adults polled, nearly 80 percent said they were very or somewhat more likely to consider buying products recommended by friends and family, while only 23 percent reported the same things for well-known bloggers. According to Pollara Executive Vice President and General Manger Robert Hutton this shows that popularity doesn’t always equate to credibility and that marketers should reconsider who the real influencers are out there.

Give me a second here. My entire brain just exploded onto the floor.

That’s perhaps one of the most ridiculous stats ever. First of all, who are these 1,100 people? Do they read blogs to begin with? Are they at all savvy? Even if they are people like me and you, I don’t think that means a darn thing. How many bloggers do you know that pitch products? Most stay away from that kind of stuff in fear of losing their street cred. And if they are pitching, the product is probably way out of your price range anyway. :) On the other hand, Mom thinks you should totally buy that emergency kit for your car in case you get stuck and Dad thinks that new socket wrench on sale at Sears is way sexy. Go get your credit card, hot shot!

If you ask me, MediaPost is missing the bigger picture here. I don’t think you can say that bloggers and other social media powerhouses aren’t influencing people. They’re the ones starting and keeping those conversations going. Where do you think Johnny heard about the new camera he’s thinking about buying? Who do you think put that brand and model in his head? Probably an A-list blogger or one of his social media connections.

As the study even reported, the majority of social media outlets are sharing their thoughts on products, services, organizations and brands. Whether it’s a blog, a forum, or an all-out social network, people are going online to talk to "friends" and make connections to gain insight about certain companies and share experiences. Heck, fifty nine percent of 18 to 34 year olds say they find social media at least somewhat important in learning about products, services or brands. That’s almost half of that key demographic. You don’t think that affects their buying decisions?

Are you insane?

Marshall Kirkpatrick argued that the biggest flaw in the Pollara study was that it focused on buying things, and I’d have to agree 100 percent. Blogging and social media have never been about directing people down a conversion path. They’re about the conversation. If you think that conversation isn’t affecting buying decisions, which brands remain in a customer’s top of mind, and which are building trust, then you haven’t even begun to understand social media.

Marketers need to stop looking at the last click and start realizing what it took to get someone there.

You don’t know which ad made someone convert, which visit to your site earned you enough trust for someone to enter in a credit card, or what conversation led someone to make a purchase. The days of measuring that last click are over. Catch up. Realize there’s a conversation going on and track it back to see where it starts. Chances are it’s a blog or a social media site.

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7 responses to “Social Media Is Where The Conversation Starts”

  1. Tin Pig writes:

    Excellent post here – specifically in that it highlights how the Pollara study was likely not well constructed. Pitting the trust of friends / family against bloggers simply isn’t a meaningful question.

  2. robojiannis writes:

    I agree with you. Probably the biggest flaw of the research is that it doesn’t say who these 1,100 adults actually are.
    The results are open to any kind of interpretation, when the research doesn’t reveal its demographic.
    – and I don’t think 1,100 people are a big enough group to draw a such conclusive thesis –

  3. Mark Dykeman writes:

    The thing that this post MIGHT be on the mark about is that, assuming that the polling sample was relatively random and balanced, awareness of blogging and social media in general and its relevance to the average person might be lower than we like to admit. More people are likely to remember “that Oprah show where she…” or “that Letterman show where he…” than “remember when Scoble said…” because blogging really isn’t a household topic or water cooler conversation outside of businesses and households which actively “tune in” to blogging and social media.

    Have said all that, I think you bring up an excellent point about how blogs and social media are instigating many conversations that ultimately permeate through to the mainstream if they have the right kind of appeal. I think bloggers may ultimately responsible for starting enthusiasm for wireless devices, electronic music players, and virtually anything popular made by Apple.

  4. Barry Welford writes:

    Yea, I agree. Let’s hear it for the movers and the shakers. Without us, what would everyone be talking about?

  5. James Duthie writes:

    Even if the data is correct and only 23% of consumers are influenced by blogs and social media, I’d still say that’s a mighty important segment. Bloggers tend to be higher income, technologically savvy influencers – aka early adopters. And as you correctly point out, we start the conversation. Get us on board and others will hear about your product/service.

  6. Jake Matthews writes:

    Lisa – very well said and I couldn’t agree with you more on the bigger picture you present here.
    The last three paragraphs of this post sum it perfectly from the points of view of 1. approach to social 2. signals and what it means to marketers.

  7. Naoise Osborne writes:

    1,100 is something like a 0.05 or so alpha level (I really can’t remember, but it sounds horrendously familiar), so chances are a random sample (random is important here if we’re talking about representation) of 1,100 people would be representative of … mmm, western civilization?

    So it would actually be important that we don’t know *who these 1,100 people are* – if they were all savvy people, that would be a select sample, and the data would be meaningless.

    It’s just a math thing, yeah?

    http://library.queensu.ca/webir/canlibqual/sampling.htm



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