Converting in conversations

As published on MarketingTribune on November 18, 2015. When marketers are talking about conversion, this often relates to views, clicks, likes or transactions. There is nothing strange about that: they are relatively easy to measure, nicely respect the well-known AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) model and are often an integral part of the price model which media planners use. Despite the success of the book The Conversation Manager by Steven Van Belleghem, conversations often miss the boat when talking about conversion. Every day and on a global level, no less than 3 billion brand-related conversations are possibly taking place, but most of those escape the marketer’s attention.

The power of conversations

When compared with a typical click or like, conversations are witnesses of a deeper involvement in your brand, either positive or negative. Think of all the like you easily share around when your friends wish you a happy birthday on Facebook: not quite a personal thank you, is it? Conversations between consumers are also more credible than messages sent by brands; there certainly will be no improvement there after Volkswagen’s current ‘Dieselgate’. Conversations are broader than sheer brand recommendations and can expose your brand’s richer context: what brings on the conversation, what is it about, who is involved, which emotions are involved etc. After all, conversations have a catching effect. They can entail a viral effect for your brand if they do (or maybe even don’t) touch upon the right emotion in a consumer. Basically: integrating conversations as conversion seems to be a smart move.

Difficult to measure

The main reason why marketers barely use conversations as conversion is probably the fact that they are very difficult to measure. Many companies use social media listening to measure the effect of their marketing efforts on the extent to which they entail online conversations on all sorts of social network sites and digital platforms. However the problem is that only an estimated 10% of all brand-related conversations take place online. Furthermore only part of these online conversations is openly accessible, as the majority of Facebook posts are invisible to the outside world. The only way to get a correct overview of the entire conversation context is to get consumers to report on their conversation behavior themselves, for example during the past week; but this method of course has its limitations.

Bashing, barking, bonding or ballad?

At InSites Consulting we use a basic 3-dimensional model for measuring the conversion of marketing efforts into conversations (both online and offline): the number of conversations, their tone-of-voice and the extent to which they have an impact on the identification with your brand.
Conversation Model
This conversation model offers a strategic context to evaluate both quantity and quality of conversations and to organize fitting marketing actions based upon that evaluation. When we used the model to measure the impact of the introduction of the Wii console on the game console market, it turned out that PlayStation and Xbox predominantly entailed bonding conversations, mainly between existing brand users with little or no effect on identification with either brand. However, conversations about the Wii console were typically found in the ballad corner, with Nintendo being capable of reaching the wider social network of non-gamers.
We have known it for a while now: consumers have the power, now more than ever. So the time has come for us to adapt our thinking about conversion to this reality. Challenge your advertising agency next time as to find out how many and which types of conversations your marketing efforts have yielded.

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