One of my least liked measures and metrics in marketing, and especially in marketing communications, is share of voice. Share of voice is theoretically what part of the conversation your brand owned during the reporting period. However, share of voice is incredibly easy to fake. Want to own share of voice? Print a press release every hour, and set up a thousand spam Twitter bots to just @ reply your Twitter account 180 times every 15 minutes (the Twitter API limit). On paper, you will be the dominant winner.
We know these are faked measures. They appear great but have no bottom line impact. Yet we may find ourselves called on the carpet by our CMO, CEO, or board of directors because we aren't winning share of voice, especially if a competitor is engaging in useless tactics like hourly press releases.
What's a better option than easily faked numbers? Engagement. When people engage with our brands, with our companies, they're indicating more than casual interest. A single Like tells us more about consumer engagement with our brand than a million press releases. Active engagement, such as comments, conversations, and re-sharing indicate our audience cares about what we have to say.
Let's look at an example, using two very well-known brands, in aggregate share of voice for the last year:
The analysis above indicates across major publishing channels - news, blogs, forums, and Twitter - that Coke and Pepsi have equal share of voice. Does this help us understand the perspective of the customer?
Are these two brands truly equal in the eyes of the customer? If we rely solely on share of voice, it would appear so. However, if we examine the actual conversations they're having, we might see a different picture.
Let's look at the same timeframe - one year - and consumer engagement on their respective Facebook Pages. Each has millions of Fans. Each posts regularly, creating opportunities for consumers to engage.
Here's how consumers comment to these brands:
This is a very different story. Coke has the lion's share of comments some months. On average, consumers have 70% of the conversations in a given month with Coke. Of course, we could state that perhaps those comments are negative. Perhaps they're more complaints. If that were the case, we would expect to see Pepsi shared more; generally speaking, people do not share things they hate.
Here's how consumers re-share content from these brands:
Most months, consumers are overwhelmingly sharing Coke's content more; on average, they share Coke's content 79% of the time.
If I were Pepsi's brand manager, I'd be concerned about the enormous gulf between traditional share of voice measures and how consumers are behaving. Choose your metrics carefully! Consider using a measure like share of engagement as a supplement to or replacement for share of voice.
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