By Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World
“It’s true that teens are twice as likely, compared to the general public, to hold brand conversations online. Still, just 13% of teens’ brand discussions take place online (including email, texting/IM and social networking), versus 7% of the general public’s.”
The MediaPost blog, Engage:Teens has some interesting data on the latest findings from TalkTrack, an ongoing study conducted by market research firm Keller Fay Group, which specializes in word-of-mouth (WOM), and counters some of the conventional wisdom regarding teens, word-of-mouth, and analog vs. digital marketing.
Besides noting that the vast majority of teenagers’ word-of-mouth recommendations occur offline as opposed to only “3% through social networking sites,” the results were also surprisingly similar to that of consumers overall, with one notable exception: “the school environment is a close second (28%), whereas for the general public, the work environment is a distant second (12%).”
While several publishers are investing heavily in building teen-centric social networking sites, it would seem a more integrated approach that includes a healthy analog component will be critical to their long-term success.
In the article, Keller Fay Group CEO Ed Keller observes that “visual cues” are important word-of-mouth triggers, and those cues are primarily analog:
He cites recent research from Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger confirming that the products that tend to have the most sustained WOM over time are ones for which we most frequently see visual cues in our daily lives – frequently in the form of actual product usage, as well as advertising and marketing. This, says Keller, underlines the importance of taking a holistic, sustained approach to WOM that includes product usage, advertising, point-of-sale activity and promotional strategies. For marketers looking to engage teens, in particular, a key value in teen versus general public brand WOM behavior comparisons may lie in using them as a jumping-off point to analyze what controllable factors tend to drive WOM among teens — specifically, whether the channels and messages being employed by their brands facilitate sparking conversations about them, Keller says.
Keller’s point also raises some interesting questions about print books vs. ereaders:
- If books are “social objects” and book covers are effective word-of-mouth triggers, what happens when ereaders take the spotlight away from individual books and instead become the center of attention themselves?
- In light of ebook sales steadily increasing, and reports that they might now be cannibalizing print sales in science fiction and romance, how might that affect word-of-mouth, arguably one of the most valuable forms of marketing for any book, regardless of format or sales channel?
- Does a publishers’ brand and the communities they’re engaged with become even more critical areas of focus when ebooks are the dominant format?
What do you think?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is the Director of Programming & Business Development for Digital Book World, and a published poet, writer, and active blogger since 2003. An old and new media pragmatist, social media realist, and marketing strategist, he views publishing as a community service, and is optimistic about its future.