Word of mouth

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I was talking to someone last week about the focus of her firm, and she said to me “We don’t really do word-of-mouth marketing, right now we’re into viral marketing.” It was one of those moments where you stop and think you missed something huge somewhere along the lines.

But I didn’t.  Viral marketing is word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing.  According to the very helpful definitions on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA):

Word of mouth: The act of consumers providing information to other consumers.

Word of mouth marketing: Giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place. It is the art and science of building active, mutually beneficial consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communications.

Ok, so what about viral marketing?  On WOMMA’s “Types of Word of Mouth Marketing” page:

Viral Marketing: Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often electronically or by email.

The key word here is “exponential.”  The uptake of the marketing message is large and fast.  But it is still done by creating enough of a reason for people to spread that message themselves via consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communication.

For some reading this, it may seem mundane.  But when you’re a professional in the field, out talking about what your company does, these distinctions are important.  I should have heard from the woman talking about her firm “We do WOM marketing, specifically viral marketing.”  Not one or the other.

While definitions may sometimes be tedious, they are still useful, if not necessary, to make distinctions, define functions and set industry standards.

Since we’re on the topic of WOM, the image above is WOMMA’s new logo, which I think is really great, so I figured I’d spread the word

What are some definitions you’re confused about?  Some you think need more refining?  Ones you see misused often?

Anya and I attended the WorldRG-sponsored Business of Community Networking conference in Boston last week.  The setting was very intimate, and there was a great line-up of speakers.  I’ve given a run down of several of them below, with some of the main takeaways.

Clara Shih on her thoughts on Facebook and Online Communities

Panel on how various online communities and community platforms have worked or not worked

Lena West on Viral Marketing

Liz Strauss on Successful Blogging

Michael Cayley on Social Capital Value Add

A panel discussion on ROI measurement

Susan Getgood on Social Media and Customer Service

Marketing, Branding and Community: How social networks are rewriting the rules of marketing, branding and community

Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era

  • Facebook is a way for humans to interact with each other, it’s not just a tool.
  • How can collaboration/productivity tools be incorporated into Facebook? Can it be used as a CRM?
  • It’s now become a social norm to share personal information publicly.  Facebook can be used as a channel to access information via “trusted online identity.”  You can connect with friends about what’s important to you, both personally and professionally.
  • How do you as a company insert yourself in the conversation in a way that’s valuable and not invasive?
    • Know your customer: use transitive trust, a personalized interaction.  It’s up to the individual to share their information.  Customers expect that you know them and that you’ve done your due diligence on them personally.
    • Weak ties are very important in this setting, leverage them.
  • Facebook offers a personal contact database.  A traditional CRM is uni-directional (companies push), now it’s bi-directional (the customer is empowered).

[Faceconnector demo]

  • There is a loyalty magnification effect in Facebook: Passive word-of-mouth (you can become a fan of something right from your own newsfeed.  If one of your friends becomes a fan, it’s very easy to follow suit).
  • Facebook offers precision marketing with hypertargeted ads
    • You can minimize wasted ads
    • Leverage latent interest
    • Test new segments and messaging
  • How do you reach them before intention sets in and get them to become intention-based buyers?

[Resources: You can install Faceconnect here on the apps page of salesforce.com and learn more about The Facebook Era here.]

Learnings from a Facebook Group in Business Investigation

Jenny Ambrozek, Victoria Axelrod, Francois Gossieux

  • You can now tap communities once only reserved for companies with deep pockets
  • Community development/management has to be considered a real investment
  • Facebook isn’t great for managing huge groups
  • Ning provides a platform for rich conversation (discussion threads, blogs, subgroups, etc)
  • Fundamentals
    • Good content
    • Allow for members profiles
    • Don’t think market segments, think tribes
    • Think about behavior, not demographics
    • Don’t think of the tool as a channel, think about it as a conversation between you and them
    • Content must be picked up to become part of the conversations
  • “Whether there’s an ROI or not, [social networking] is something you have to do.”
  • “We haven’t been able to assign a dollar amount to [social networking], but you still have to play.”
  • What is the relationship of new people coming to the site to those current members?  How did they get there?
    • Known name
    • Known friend of a friend
    • New face
    • New member, source unknown
  • Align your activity measurements with network measurements and analysis
  • It’s about behavior, not attributes
  • Reciprocity in people is a reflex
  • We either behave in a market framework (contract, employment, cold, calculated) or a social framework
  • Provide structure and house rules (top-down) while nurturing the bottom-up interactions
  • Facebook ends up being a lot of work
    • Much harder for B2B to get companies to interact
    • People don’t want to necessarily go to Facebook to do business
    • It’s still difficult to put a “face” to a company
  • Find out where your trive hangs out, go there, and deliver results

[Resources: Tribalization of Business Study (Beeline Labs)]

The Chicken or the Egg: The real deal about “viral marketing”

Lena West, Founder & CEO of Xyno Media

  • Viral Marketing is any marketing tactic/content that encourages “pass along” sharing, which then changes that messages level of influence.
  • 3-7-3 Frameworks
    • 3 Rules
      • Viral marketing is created, not born
      • People hate the term viral marketing, and probably always will
      • Not all viral marketing is good
    • 7 Criteria
      • Free & short rule
      • Doesn’t force behavior change, but allows for it
      • It’s not just entertaining, but people can see themselves doing it
      • Feeds off how people work
      • Scalability is hardwired (support structure needs to be there)
      • Facilitates easy sharing
      • Leverage Other Peoples’ Social (OPS)
    • 3 Imperatives
      • Listen/Monitor (if you don’t listen, you don’t know what’s going on)
      • Set the kill switch (how can you pull the plug if you need to)
      • Once your campaign goes viral, it no longer belongs to your brand

Understanding the Conversation Online Between Consumers: Focusing on blogging

Liz Strauss, Social Media Strategist and blogger at Successful Blog

Please see separate post complete with video for this presentation.

Social Media Reality: Achieving cultural shifts

Michael Cayley, Founder of Social Capital Value Add

[Video coming soon]


  • Two main points of this video:
    • We’re going through exponential change
    • Bandwidth is one of the key drivers
  • What’s In It For Me (WWIF Me) has become WIIF Them
  • There is an authentic connection and self-fulfillment found through organization
  • Would some companies survive if they weren’t aligned with CSR?
  • Shared perception is mediated
  • The medium is in the message
  • The scale of human beings has changed, so how we architect around that will change
  • Brand Valuation is an estimation of the future earnings of products and services
  • Social Capital in not based on a product line

[Resources: Introducing Social Capital Value Add e-book]

Understanding the ROI with Community Marketing

Chris Carfi, CEO of Cerado (Moderator); Myles Bristowe, President of Boston American Marketing Association and CMO of Commonwealth Creative Associates; Michael Cayley, Founder of Social Capital Value Add; Jenny Ambrozek, Founder of SageNet; Erica Farthing, Director of Social Media for Condodomain.com

[Video coming soon]

  • Anything in marketing is a risk
  • Measure everything you can
  • You can measure so much more now than you could
  • Give your members a reason to join your network (for AMA is was to communicate with professionals in their field and get relevant information)
  • Instead of just having events or a newsletter, an online community offers value from the association or company every day
  • For AMA, in order to convert people from community members to Association members, there needed to be someone who reached out to them, they needed to find continual value, and they needed to participate in order to convert to membership.
  • Integrate the back end of your community for data capture
  • Most measurements are happening ad hoc, but creating a company picture with the most applicable measurements is key
  • Set realistic goals

Examining Social Media & Customer Services

Susan Getgood, Principal of Getgood Strategic Marketing

  • Your starting point is your customer
  • Customers are online talking about you
  • It’s about the social part.  The tool is just a medium and they’re changing every day
  • Public social netowkrs are where discussions are taking place
  • 85% of social media users say that companies should be online in a social networking way
  • It’s not just about outbound marketing, it’s about engagement and what the customers do once they reach you
  • 4 Ps of online engagement: Prepare, Participate, Pitch or Publish
  • Constistency, Honesty and Value

Above is a depiction, provided by Brand Channel of the factors that go into a brand’s equity.  I could have inserted any number of images, but the general concepts are the same.

I want to talk about brand equity because I don’t feel there has been enough straight forward conversation about what this means in new and social media.  We all know that most brand images are effected by their presence online, but I wonder how much real discussion there is with colleagues and, more importantly, with clients about what this means to the bottom line (sidenote: there are still many spaces that aren’t highly visible online, so, for now, we’re talking about industries for which the Web 2.0 space is highly important).

I’ll use just a few of the above factors as examples:

  • Image and Personality: Several months ago, Chris Brogan had a webinar that was called “Who Really Owns Your Brand?” (I discussed it in-depth here).  He and the discussants talked about the changes that occur to your brand image in social media: that customers now have more influence over your brand, and that the amount of control a company has over their image is shifting away from them.  A company can decide to either enter this space and influence to some extent where their brand is going, or they can remain in a traditional mindset and “push” brand image on customers. We know where that’s headed…..
  • Awareness: There are a ton of possible consumer touch points available to companies in the new media space.  There are also very attractive opportunities for Word-of-Mouth (WOM).  There’s the possibility that customers can bring either positive or negative brand awareness to the table in a high-profile manner.  A major way that people become aware of a brand nowadays is online, through friends and in communities. With an increased positive brand awareness comes an increase in brand equity.
  • Loyalty: Discussion and conversation with your customers (when done properly) breeds loyalty.  I don’t need to beat this one to death.  Online is where this is taking place. You wouldn’t want to be left out of the conversation of your own brand would you, or left out of the opportunity to develop a relationship with your customers?

These are just some examples, I could break down all of the above further if I wanted to but I think you get where I’m headed.

The main point is that, while we all know these things, I wonder how many of us directly correlate it to brand equity in the monetary sense, especially with clients. This is important, so let me repeat.  New/social media and the Web 2.0 space have important effects on the monetary value of your company.

We recently had a potential client who was wondering what the point was of using new media in his marketing program if they were looking to enter IPO stages in less than five years.  The company was absolutely a candidate for new media marketing, and its brand image was already being affected positively and negatively in this space.

My argument to him was (not only that the space is moving incredibly fast and five years could make a huge difference), but, almost more importantly:  Your brand image IS online right now, and it IS being affected.  And that DOES and WILL matter when determining the value of your company.  In some cases, it’s not even a matter of going where it’s hot (although that has its advantages!).  Your brand is there, you should be there too.

What’s more, the Web 2.0 world is completely visible to anyone who chooses to look, including potential funders or buyers of your company.  That information matters.  I’ll not deny that measurement of that value in dollar terms is difficult, but many traditional aspects of brand equity are the same. It still applies.

Most funders and buyers are looking to social media to figure out at least part of the value of brands (and if they’re not, they probably should be, because it’s often one of the best indicators of how consumers feel about your brand).  It should be considered right along side of sales figures or profitability.

So I encourage people to talk to clients directly not just about the benefits of new media marketing, but also about the necessity to be in the space from a brand management perspective.

Have you discussed this with clients?  Do you consider it important?  Is it too vague at this stage to be put into monetary terms?  Any thoughts are welcome.  Below are a few of Zemanta’s thoughts on the issue, as well as a couple of posts I came across.

Some thoughts from Web Marketing Strategies, Trends and Tips.
Customer Think has some advice.

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