Expert Column: Why Tweets, Posts and Pics Aren’t Worth Your Time

By Tara Peters, director of marketing at WorkPlace Impact

The fact that social media is growing will not come as a surprise to anyone. YouTube reports that more than 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute. The percentage of adults who use Instagram has doubled in two years, according to Pew Research Center. Plus, research firm eMarketer reports advertisers in the U.S. and Canada will increase spending on social networks by 31 percent in 2015—passing $10 billion for the first time in history.

As more and more companies devote budgets and manpower to social media marketing, the more important question should be: is social media actually effective in convincing consumers to buy a product or visit a restaurant or store?

Other research insights demonstrate that social media may not be as worthwhile as concentrating on developing offline word-of-mouth conversations, which more often lead to purchase.

Social Media Isn’t As Effective As You Think

Investing in social media doesn’t necessarily lead to the sales results marketing departments are hoping for. The CMO Survey reports that almost half of the chief marketing officers surveyed (49 percent) can’t show that their company’s social media activity has an impact on their business. And within the dining industry, the average restaurant has a mere 3 percent engagement ratio on social media, according to a Sprinklr Social Business Index. The proof is in the pudding – social media is an inefficient way to connect with customers and an unproven means to generate real and measurable return on investment. So what is?

Consumers Respond to Offline Word-of-Mouth

Instead, in-person conversations tend to have a huge impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. According to the Keller Fay Talk Track study, offline word-of-mouth—defined as conversations individuals have face-to-face or over the phone—holds a significant advantage over online (50 percent vs. 43 percent) with respect to purchase intent. The Keller Fay study also looked at how much different product categories played into daily conversation. Luckily for grocery marketers, food and dining ranks as the most discussed category offline. About one out of 10 conversations (11 percent) revolve around food brands.

How to Get Your Store or Brand into Conversations

Since Americans spend a large share of their lives at work, the workplace is a natural place for people to share opinions, experiences and recommendations. In fact, Keller Fay found that only the consumer’s home ranks higher than the workplace for word-of-mouth conversations. The workplace is a venue that is worth exploring when designing a marketing campaign that focuses on offline conversations.

Workplace marketing companies can help insert brands into conversations through product sampling, coupon distribution and traditional print advertising in offices. Grocery stores and restaurants can design programs to reach offices within a certain geographical radius of their location or with certain target demographics. WorkPlace Impact, for example, has a proprietary permission-based network of more than 1 million U.S. businesses to deliver advertiser offers and samples directly into the hands of more than 71 million working consumers.

In the midst of a digitally saturated world, sometimes old-fashioned, face-to-face conversations are forgotten. Given today’s research, it’s time marketers remember that these real human interactions drive purchases.

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