The abuse of the concept two-way communication in marketing

I want to play a little game today. I will be a devil's advocate around the topic of the probably most used buzz-word in the last couple of years in marketing - two-way communication. This marketing jargon was enhanced even further with the development of digital technology.

The concept of two-way communication in marketing is broad but the abuse that I am talking about is mostly used in social media and this is why I am focusing mostly on social. The premise is pretty straightforward, people do not like getting brand messages pushed down their throats but they like to be engaged. Please note from the start that I do understand that all social media channels have their own advantages. Facebook reach and advertising targeting abilities alone are a powerhouse by itself, Snapchat is booming in the younger population but I would like to put some focus on other facts that marketing people often forget.


Average engagement rates from social bakers data that looked into 500.000 Facebook fan pages are extremely low. As Facebook pages get bigger the engagement is even lower than these extremes. It gets sad, really.

  • 0 -10k 0,96 %
  • 10k – 20k 0,29 %
  • 20k – 50k 0,21 %
  • 50k – 100k 0,19 %
  • 100k – 200k 0,16 %
  • 200k – 500k 0,13 %
  • 500k – 1 000k 0,11 %
  • 1 000k – ~ 0,09 %

What is happening here? Why are these numbers so low? Well, it is not that hard to figure it out. We as consumers mostly do not care about brands. We do not want to become one with a brand and we do not have time for brands. We do not have time for our family and friends, so why the heck would we give away our precious time to answer a brand on social media how we are doing today? 

I will admit that there are brands that are engaging but still there are too few of them that are a good case study for the success of two-way communication in total.


This sounds as a good thing but for overall brand growth it is not. If we put buyers in two segments - light and heavy, we should ask one of the most important questions when choosing to which target group should we communicate. What target group will change their behaviour most because of our advertising actions? Who will buy more because of our marketing actions? According to Byron Sharp of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute the answers is the light buyer as it will be hard to nudge a heavy buyer to buy even more than it is now.

In 2012 Ehrenberg-Bass Institute concluded that the Facebook fan base of two monitored FMCG brands consisted 60% of heavy buyers. To put this into perspective for most brands share of non-buyers and light buyers is around 80 to 90%.

If you think about this data a bit, it too makes sense. You most likely will not follow brands on social media if you are not inclined to them. So, if we put our marketing efforts on social media we will most likely communicate to people that already like us and that are most likely already buying the brand that is being followed. The two-way communication that we can get on social media in long term does not give us the most cost-efficient way to grow our brand in the long term.


Let's face it, today the old push way of communicating brand messages is still the prevailing one. In the world of deteriorating consumer attention span, banner blindness and growing public irritation with advertising most of the budget is still spent on 30-second TVC and interruptive banners. I will not say that this is a good thing in the overall skim of things but this is the reality. The old strategy of pushing messages to consumers still works because it sticks as it stays in the memory of consumers. 

To conclude, people in general do not want to talk to their second most favorite detergent. Two way communication is a thing but not as big as most of the marketing people make of it.