In what may be the first social media study of its kind, Covario, Inc., one of the nation's largest independent providers of enterprise software solutions and search marketing services, found a close correlation between the pure number of Twitter mentions a brand receives and the amount of money it invests in various forms of digital advertising, such as display ads and paid search advertising.
However, in this same study of 81 of the world's largest advertisers according to Advertising Age magazine, the correlation did not hold true when extended to all forms of advertising -- digital and offline, adding television, radio, print and out-of-home advertising. In addition, the study found "zero statistical correlation" between a company's ad expenditures (whether just digital or in total) and its brand sentiment, as reflected by positive Twitter references.
"Clearly, the amount of money spent on digital advertising influences the quantity of brand mentions by people who Tweet, raising overall Twitter impressions," said Craig Macdonald, Covario's chief marketing officer and senior vice president for products. "Expressions of sentiment, on the other hand, appear to be influenced more by how well the money is used, not the amount."
Macdonald said the study was designed to determine how effective paid media investments are in shaping social media conversations on Twitter about leading brands. Top national and global advertisers, based on their 2009 (latest available) media budgets as reported in Ad Age, were ranked on the level of positive/negative buzz about their brands during the first seven weeks of 2011, using the Covario Social Media Insight™ software solution.
With respect to vertical industry segments, Covario found the highest expression of Twitter sentiment in the beverage category, which includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Using a -10 (most negative) to +10 (most positive) ranking methodology, the beverage industry garnered the best 3.26 score. Beverages were followed in sentiment rankings by the retail, high-tech, consumer electronics, and consumer packaged goods categories.
In terms of individual brands, Tweeters love Kohl's Department Store the most. It had a positive 9.2 score, followed by Berkshire Hathaway, Coca Cola, Hershey's Chocolate, Quest, and The Walt Disney Company.
Macdonald believes positive buzz around a brand is driven more by the quality of a marketing campaign in terms of the creative look, feel and messaging, combined with how well the money is spent (i.e., the media plan).
"Money doesn't buy love," Macdonald said. "It's not all about the brute power of a large advertising budget. It takes creativity and relevance."
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