Word of Mouth Marketing – It’s Not Just Verbal Anymore

Word-of-mouth referrals are like solid gold to marketing and communications professionals. While we all strive to earn the positive end conversations for our clients or companies on user review pages, Facebook, Twitter or in the media, there is more to earning effective word-of-mouth than meets the eye. Enter Word-of-Mouth marketing (WOMM).

In the past, the most likely WOMM source would be a family member or close friend sharing their latest find. But in today’s digital information age, word of mouth marketing (WOMM), supplemented by easily shareable digital and social media, continues to surpass all other options in effectiveness to increase exposure and awareness for brands and products. Consumers have the ability to spread the word instantaneously, brands enjoy larger exposure through the shared networks of their consumers, and both consumers and brands have the tools, through constantly improving digital technology, to make content shareable in multiple formats to gain immediate traction.

What force is propelling WOMM to new levels? The power and reach of evolving social media sites is changing the game. Social media has transitioned from simple networking to prompting consumers to share their own content. From simply “liking” or sharing a brand page on Facebook, to tweeting a comment directly to a brand on Twitter, or posting a picture of using a brand on Instagram, there are endless ways to share feedback.  With more recent sites such as Foursquare, Google +, Linkedin, Tumblr and Pinterest, the options for WOMM are limitless. In a late 2012 survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 83 percent of adults between ages 19 and 29 used social media compared to 2005 when only 9 percent did (a 74 percent increase). Seventy seven percent of adults between ages 30 and 49 regularly used social media in 2012 compared to only 7 percent in 2005 (a 70 percent increase).

As user activity on these sites increase, social media continues grow all the while prompting consumers to share their content. In a recent study by MarketShare, multiple brands found that WOMM increased marketing effectiveness by 54 percent (Forbes). One service that drives WOMM, Yelp, with more than 102 million visitors per month, has accumulated 39 million + reviews since it first launched in 2004, meaning more people are willing to share their opinions and experiences with the public, and other consumers value and trust that feedback.

What does this mean for brands? If social media is the engine for WOMM, consumer feedback and engagement is the fuel. We have access to express our opinions and provide suggestions on brands digitally in a matter of seconds to entire networks, thus creating more buzz for brands. Consumers have the choice to share a link or a post of their activity, even without an actual post stating their recommendation. The extent of engagement or sharing may depend on the consumer’s experience or fervor.

How can companies or brands include WOMM in their strategy and implementation?

  • Identify key messages and tailor for each audience: Your message for media may aim for more technical coverage while your approach with social media would likely be more informal to guide consumer share-ability.
  • Promote key messages visually, verbally and in written materials. Ensure your images meet technical criteria for multiple sites or services.
  • Integrate WOM-worthy elements throughout your marketing plan. Consider multiple ways of reaching audiences from CEO conversations, desk side introductions or demonstrations, employee ambassadors, etc.

Fineman PR specializes in WOMM-worthy client campaigns. From developing intricate museum-style displays or guerrilla worthy brand icon appearances for mass consumer events to hosting intimate blogger events and share-worthy promotions, we strive to make the right connections for our clients by building positive brand experiences for relevant influencers with WOMM-worthy reach.

Here’s a recent example of WOMM at play.  Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend for our client Shelter Co. With nearly 25,000 in attendance, Celebration Weekend helps lifestyle brands reach audiences in California and the Pacific Northwest – specifically food, beverage, travel, furniture and interior design. Brand leaders are also given the opportunity to address consumer inquiries using WOMM through live interviews conducted by Sunset Magazine staff. Shelter Co was one of the selected brands for live interviews.

Prior to the Sunset Magazine interview, we prepped Shelter Co by helping to establish key messages. We shifted these key messages so they could also be used to answer consumers’ questions as well, while remaining in line with the brand personality and attributes. It also helped to have an innovative display ideal for social media sharing, by crafting picture-perfect moments for share-ability. We featured a life-size, fully-equipped display of a Shelter Co luxury tent (see photo), where event attendees were welcomed to walk inside and experience the amenities offered by our client first-hand while dreaming of their own future glamping experience. Facebook “likes” increased by a sizeable boost after Shelter Co presented there and consumers also shared their experiences and interest in the brand on Twitter:

 

 

 

WOMM isn’t just another option for driving brand awareness; it’s a requirement. It’s using real consumer feedback to your advantage. What better way to be informed of what consumers think, than to hear it straight from your target audience at the moment it’s being shared with the public? People are choosing to share their excitement with the web in multiple ways and through more than just a handful of sites or services.  Brands must embrace these developments and join the conversations where they are taking place. In the end, your brand and audience are building an element of trust that transcends beyond one engagement; and maintaining and growing that strong relationship contributes immensely to your brand’s overall awareness and success.

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