CINCINNATI: Beinggirl, the online community created by Procter & Gamble for its feminine hygiene brand Always, has proved "four times as effective per dollar spend as advertising" in encouraging sampling and driving sales, says Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff.

Speaking at the IAB's Social Media Conference, Bernoff, who is the co-author of Groundswell – which is reviewed here – argued that brands like Always constitute an "obvious" example of a product that faces the challenge of communicating with a young, hard-to-reach audience about a difficult topic.

Despite this, Procter & Gamble's community portal for the product only had a "little subtle branding message," and focused instead on "problems of being a teenage girl," from relationships with parents to healthcare issues.

The success of the site in generating interest around the Always brand meant it was rolled out to 21 markets, from the UK and Canada to Saudi Arabia.

More broadly, Bernoff, argues this examples shows that "engaging in conversations can actually generate sampling and sales."

He thus advised marketers that with most brands, as was the case with Always, "people don't really want to talk about your product."

Rather, he said, "unless your product is incredibly exciting, what you really want to talk to people about is their problems. That will give you the opportunity to talk to them about your products."

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by WARC staff