However, if we only pay attention to online metrics, we are most likely underestimating the reach and efficacy of our marketing messages.
This is due, in part, to the fact that we still “live” most of our lives offline.
Therefore, marketers really need to find additional ways to measure the success of our marketing activities.
However, because a lot marketers still create content for branding purposes, sometimes it is difficult to accurately judge the effectiveness of an individual piece of creative at all, because the influence of branding messages need to be evaluated over a longer period of time. (This is something that Bob Hoffman, CEO of the Type A Group, pointed out in Episode 413 of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast.)
Most Word of Mouth Happens Offline
In his book, titled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Dr. Jonah Berger, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that most word of mouth happens offline.
According to Dr. Berger, most people tend to think that around 50 percent of word of mouth happens online.
However, most people are wrong.
“The actual number is 7 percent. Not 47 percent, not 27 percent, but 7 percent,” writes Dr. Berger. “Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online.”
Dr. Berger goes on to point out that even though we spend a lot of time sharing online, we spend more time offline and offline conversations are rarely documented.
Furthermore, he points out that while online conversations could potentially reach a lot more people, many of these potential recipients don’t actually see every online post.
What Gets Shared Online Is Also Shared Offline and Vice Versa
If the content that we create is compelling enough, people will share it.
The problem is, people share content the way that they want to.
That means that after you post something online it might get shared by people online.
However, a person who sees your content on one social networking site might share it on another social networking site.
Or, they might call people over to their computer or smartphone and say, “Hey, look at this.”
They might also just mention it in passing when talking to friends, family, or coworkers in their day-to-day conversations.
And, as other experts have pointed out, what is shared online could potentially reach the right person with the ability to spread the message through other more traditional media outlets.
For example, back in 2012, Tom Webster highlighted the fact that 80 percent of people claimed to have received information from Twitter because it was relayed to them in other media (e.g., television, radio, other websites, etc.) Even back then, 44 percent said that this happened almost every day.
I would guess that both of these numbers are higher today, given the fact that both of the current presidential candidates know that when they post something on Twitter there is a good chance that what they post will be cited in the evening news or in other media outlets.
While most businesses don’t get the attention that presidential candidates do, their posts still have a chance of being shared in many ways once it is posted online for everyone to see.
As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”
Since business leaders often need to justify their budgets, it might be more accurate to say, “What gets measured gets funded.”
Because there are so many ways to measure the effectiveness of the content that we post online, measurement has become a very important part of the content creation process.
And, the good thing is that some very smart people are constantly working on ways to improve the accuracy of the analytics that marketers use each and every day.
However, as I have tried to point out in this post, we still have a long way to go, particularly when examining how content is shared.
It is therefore often necessary to find alternative ways to measure how effective your content is in accomplishing the desired goal in order to justify creating it in the first place.
That said, in some cases it might never be possible to measure all the ways that your content influences your bottom line even when there are some analytics to help guide you along the way.
That is, unless you stop creating content altogether and measure the decrease in sales over time.
The problem with this is that it probably will allow your competitors to grab the attention of your potential customers.
Therefore, this is clearly not the best solution.
Instead, the best solution is often to measure what we can, but realize that our content might be influencing sales in immeasurable ways.
Photo credit: magicatwork on Flickr.