When it comes to word of mouth, brands have been quick to focus on online engagement via social media and to then assume offline conversations are the same – but research shows brand conversations across different channels have almost no relationship to one another.

For a comprehensive view, brands need to measure the full conversation both on and offline, its volume, sentiment, who it is shared with and how influential the speaker is, says Matt Dodd, MD/Analytics, Kantar.

Writing for WARC, he explains that “not only do people tend to discuss different types of brands [across different channels], but their sentiment for the same brand may differ vastly between online and offline channels.”

Kantar and Engagement Labs analysed online and offline consumer conversations for 400 UK brands and looked at the four key metrics outlined above, with each weighted to their correlation to sales, to compare digital and offline chatter.

When the weekly averages for online and offline conversations for the brands in the study were compared, across all measures there was low correlation; only in the case of volume did the correlation level reach double digits, at 13.7%. (For more, read the full article on WARC: Getting the full picture: Understanding the link between online and offline brand chatter.)

One obvious reason for the discrepancy is that while most people might now have a social media account, rather fewer are posting regularly. Dodd cites Kantar research which shows the percentage of conversations given over to social media is 8% versus two-thirds (68%) face to face.

“So, the people talking frequently online are not demographically representative. In contrast, all of us speak to friends, colleagues and family about service or product experiences, sharing advice and opinions about different brands.”

And it’s not just the ‘who’ that’s different online, he adds; it’s also the ‘what’. “Online chatter is typically skewed towards higher value and more fashionable brands” because social media is a form of social signalling.

Brands need to understand these differences, Dodd explains, and target the conversation channels that are likely to have the greatest impact on purchase decisions for them.

Sourced from WARC