Little Correlation between Media Usage, Media Influence

For the last few years Mary Meeker and KPCB’s Internet Trends Study has identified a significant gap between media time spent and advertising spend on digital media. According to the latest study, half of consumer time spent is with digital media while digital only receives about 30% of ad spend.

While a compelling finding, other research suggests that time spent isn’t a necessarily relevant factor when it comes to deciding where to spend advertising dollars. In fact, according to a 2014 Google survey of 2,458 recent purchasers of products, the search giant said that there is “very little correlation between media usage and media influence.”

Both of these studies are right. The fact that consumers use digital media so much, particularly mobile, suggests that there is simply more time/opportunities to reach consumers on these channels, making them viable venues for advertising. To Google’s point, just because a large number of people watch TV, for example, doesn’t mean TV commercials are the best for influencing people.

The nuance that Google’s study offers is the importance of “purpose” which appears to be synonymous with intent or desire. Reaching consumers on, as Google calls it, the “path-to-purpose,” is the real challenge of advertising and marketing today.

Because media usage and influence aren’t related, Google isn’t saying that that it doesn’t matter where a business spends advertising and marketing dollars. As we get down to the business category or location level, knowing where a target audience is online and understanding how they utilize these channels is critical when trying to influence them.

Millennials, for example, are not only on Facebook, but also use the social network as a news source, word-of-mouth vehicle and often engage with content. If this is your target audience then Facebook may be a great place to start running campaigns that communicate to this audience and influence them to act.

More broadly, there are definitely some market trends taking place that apply to a majority of businesses. The “intent” factor associated with search, makes SEO and SEM fundamental sources of leads and traffic for businesses and increasingly these searches are taking place via mobile devices. But apps have started to fragment digital traffic even more, meaning businesses need to find out where else their target audience is online and understand how they behave on these channels.

Google said it well in the study:

“Consumers are very engaged with online content. They don’t just consume media; they create their own content and curate that of others. They do this in a fragmented media landscape, where no one large platform can claim a majority of consumer influence.”

But traffic, “purpose,” and usage are not the sole influencers on consumers. Messaging (copy) and creative is another critical piece of the equation. Often overshadowed by targeting and ad tech, the copy and creative remains the meeting place of the consumer and the business and the birthplace of interest and lead generation.

Like many conclusions taken from digital marketing studies, the one here is dependent on the industry or market being considered. Broadly speaking, the takeaway is that influence and usage aren’t directly correlated, but they also aren’t completely separate. The sweet spot is knowing your audience, the online channels they frequent, what they use these channels for and then saying something they care about.

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