The ability for brands to directly acquire or at the very least influence audience exposure has compromised the audience’s right to choose. The element of choice holds priceless value in a marketplace where awareness is forced and engagement is coerced by the almighty dollar. It’s why the term "vanity metrics" was coined. When people choose to talk about your brand, share it with friends or spend their precious time with it, a loyalty-laden connection is being made.
This scenario should have dedicated marketers searching for the purest possible measurements of consumer trust. Across the various performance metrics, only a few can’t be directly paid for. The last frontier of audience engagement includes conversation, sharing and time spent. Brands should look at these as the engagement metrics that matter in building trust because they’re the only ones that depend on unadulterated consumer choice.
Conversation is key
How many people are talking, and how often? Who is talking? What are they reacting to? Is it positive or negative? On social media, conversation is what drives the algorithm to work in a brand's favor. According to Facebook, high conversation leads to a better ranking in the news feed. The platform also considers the volume of people replying to comments, with posts garnering comment replies receiving high ranking in the news feed as well.
Think dialogue is limited to social? Guess again. Let’s not forget about Infiniti's continuous dialogue ad, distributed via music streaming apps. Listeners were prompted to respond by voice to a short skippable ad teaser. Depending on their answer they were directed to a test-drive landing page or reengaged with new information. All delivered ads beyond the first were shaped by the nature of an individual's previous answers, thus achieving a continuous dialogue between listener and brand. By the numbers:
19.3% of total listeners engaged in dialogue with the brand
45% of those who engaged moved on to a second conversation
There was a 5.24% conversion rate
As concepts such as the metaverse create countless digital possibilities we’ve yet to imagine, content will reign king in the foreseeable future. No matter the platform or channel, content is only as valuable as the engagement it creates—particularly conversation.
Sharing is caring
Sharing is another aspect of humanity understood and valued across cultural and geographical lines. We all know what it means to share. It’s a gesture that establishes a certain amount of value to an item or piece of information. A family heirloom passed down through generations can hold the same value as a viral video, even if only for a moment. In either situation, there’s a certain amount of excitement when receiving the subject being shared, because for a period of time you only heard about it before experiencing it personally.
Consumer trust and buying decisions are first informed by family, friends and other consumers. Word of mouth marketing drives $6 trillion of annual consumer spending and is estimated to account for 13% of consumer sales. The value of shares as a performance metric is a byproduct of this logic. Smart brands including Adidas and Online Doctor look to raise awareness by appealing to consumer recommendations.
In 2016, Adidas launched the GamePlan A digital magazine with the goal of leveraging content to build company culture and attract and retain employees. On LinkedIn, the content gained up to 3,500 shares while Adidas’ LinkedIn community grew by more than 230%.
A consumer sharing brand information, original content or product is a powerful statement of trust. Consider that your audience has deemed your material worthy enough to pass along to close friends, family, and colleagues. With 96% of consumers trusting referrals from friends and family, the organic act of sharing what your brand is offering, even in the simple context of a retweet or blog share, is a signal of trust.
Time is money
Gaining traffic is only winning a battle. Time spent wins the war.
Consider the Clubhouse social media app, which has more than 500,000 daily users according to the Los Angeles Times. While the number of users are impressive, it’s the amount of time spent that gives Clubhouse its largest value proposition for partners in advertisement and programming. According to Think Impact, users spend an average of 11-22 hours on the app each week—more than 5 million hours. Forget the possibility of a few hundred thousand people engaging with your brand and imagine them spending 5 million hours per week engaging with it. The amount of information a brand can potentially share and receive directly from the target audience is astronomical.
As marketers face the ever-present task of finding ways to build trust among increasingly nuanced subcultures, metrics such as conversation, sharing, and time spent will remain key performance indicators to measure success.
Don’t miss the latest news. Sign up for Ad Age newsletters here.