Don’t Allocate Social Resources According to Brand Mentions. Focus on Value

Digiday recently wrote that “Twitter dominates brand conversations”, based on upon the observation by Burson-Marsteller that more than half of Fortune 100 brand mentions in a month occurred on Twitter [1].  But counting brand mentions is not the same as counting business value. In fact, resources should be allocated according to the relative value of each social venues, not the relative volume of brand mentions.

The simple reality is that Twitter has contained the majority of brand mentions in most categories for at least a couple of years, because, in most categories, mentions on Twitter usually involve brief link shares, that are easy for people to amplify — not in-depth conversations.

I can tell you this with certainty because, over the past two years, my teams at Converseon produced detailed conversation analyses for brands across every industry and every global region. And the answer was nearly always the same: most brand mentions occurred on Twitter. In some cases, most brand mentions occurred in forums and blogs, but those industries are rare.

Even so, brands should not allocate resources according to mentions.

Twitter has a unique role in a social media strategy, and so do other venues, whose value could be underestimated if you focus too much on the volume of brand mentions. For example, most B2B brands need a thoughtful mix of engagement on Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and online communities or forums. In many cases, for example, Twitter sends traffic to blogs or forums, where the brand posts its most engaging content, and where the real conversations occur.

In my experience, most brands under-allocate resources to blogs and forums — especially forums they do not own, where significant volumes of deeper conversations occur, for the following reasons:

Why Brands Under-Allocate Resources to Blogs and Forums

  1. It is more difficult to engage in external forums and blogs. In forums, you have to hire staff who understand the forums, and who have built or can build trusting relationships with forum participants. And, on blogs, you have to create unique and thoughtful content. Consistently.
  2. In some cases, forum engagement has been integrated into Customer Service, and the people responsible for planning external forum engagement are different than the people who plan Twitter engagement (more likely to be PR and Marketing).
  3. Brands feel challenged to quantify the value of forum engagement, and don’t secure budget for it.
  4. Performance metrics in forums are more difficult to gather due to lack of free, public APIs, which Twitter and Facebook provide.
  5. Performance metrics in forums are less sexy than Twitter and Facebook, where communicators can report constantly increasing Fans or Followers.
  6. Corporate counsel is often concerned about providing advice or support in forums, versus on Twitter, where the 140-character limitation helps to control risk to the brand. (On the other hand, Twitter can be perceived as more risky because of its easier for brand staff to publish lots of tweets.)

That’s hard work. It takes time. And many brands simply walk away from the challenge — even brands who see most of their brand and category mentions in forums.

Twitter, on the other hand, is pretty easy. Short tweets. Retweet other people’s content. Tweet links to your own content, etc.

Twitter almost always contains more brand mentions than other venues — not always, but usually. But be careful about focusing too much energy on Twitter, at the expense of the social venues that really impact your brand goals.

[1] The date of the Burson-Marsteller research was not disclosed, but that is not a big deal, in this case.
[2] Thanks to Constantin Basturea (@cbasturea) for ideas, input and feedback contained in this post.

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