6 Tips on How to Accelerate Word of Mouth Marketing through Social Media

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Whether we admit it or not, the opinions of other people matter.  Whether it’s about simple things such as which brand of laundry detergent to buy, or bigger decisions such as who to consult with on critical business matters, we’ve always taken into account the points of view of those we deem important in order to get the information we need to make the best judgement calls.

This is exactly how we can define word of mouth from a marketing perspective: the passing of information, hopefully beneficial to our brand, from one to another via oral communication.  The potential influential power that word of mouth has when it spreads is what marketers have always wanted to tap, so much so that giving people something to talk about has become one of the foundations of marketing and advertising.

Marketing through word of mouth took a temporary backseat when mass media started to boom.  Television, radio, and print ads captured the attention of millions, making them the most preferred means of advertising. Brands accumulated loyal followers, that is until their audiences became overly-saturated with paid slots.  These days, people are so bombarded with ads every turn that more often than not, they don’t bother giving them a second glance.

This shift back to word of mouth is clear: According to Nielsen’s April 2012 report on Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages, a whopping 92% of the world’s population trust recommendations of other people regarding products and services, while only 47% trust ads on TV, magazines, and billboards. Brands need to go back to making people talk about them instead of talking at people.

This is where social media comes in. With people trusting other people’s opinions more than paid advertisements, and with so many people utilizing social media to have conversations, we can safely say that social media has become a powerful “word of mouth” channel. If you’re interested in using social media to help accelerate your word of mouth marketing, here are a few tips that will hopefully get you to start thinking outside of the “traditional” marketing box:

  1. Give people reasons to talk about you.  You can’t spark word of mouth marketing without giving people reasons to talk about you, but social media can now make this easier than ever to accomplish by helping you directly engage with the public. Using the various social media platforms, ask a question, create an intriguing online event, or give away exciting freebies that can help start conversations with your followers. Conversations that are started online are continued offline, so have conversations and post information that would be deemed worthy of others to discuss.
  2. Provide targeted conversation starters through social ads. Through the micro-targeted advertising that can be done in social media through the likes of Facebook Ads (pun intended), we can now provide visuals and dialogue in a relevant way to spark conversations in social media that, if done right, can get people online and offline talking about your brand in an extremely targeted fashion. Remember, these ads are not about pushing your product but about starting a conversation!
  3. Create social media content that is begging to be shared. While tweets limit you to 140 characters, video as a type of social media content is of the most viral forms of media, so take advantage of this fact by creating YouTube videos that are begging to be shared. Here is one site that suggests a formula for the types of videos that have a better chance of becoming viral and sparking word of mouth. While social media posts are often personal, images and videos are often things that we want to share and experience with others, so take advantage of this to your brand’s benefit.
  4. Be sincere and find ways to improve your relationship with your customers.  One reason why word of mouth is one of the most effective ways of marketing and advertising is because it’s honest.  You have to make an effort to be sincere in your dealings with your followers. Don’t connect with them just for the sake of doing so, and as much as possible, try not to automate conversations. If you do need to use prescheduled responses or posts, make sure that you are also regularly monitoring social media so that you can answer your customers’ queries as soon as possible. Consumers feel so empowered by social media that sometimes a quick response from a big brand can spark word-of-mouth activities.
  5. Face your issues head-on.  When something goes wrong, as something invariably does, don’t lie to your public or brush things under the proverbial rug, as this may anger your audiences even more.  Take Chapstick, for example.  An ad of a blond woman bending over to look for her lost Chapstick behind a couch has caused a stir on blogs and social media channels.  Instead of properly addressing those who were offended, the company chose to delete negative comments about it on their Facebook page, which caused greater PR problems as the damaging remarks kept on coming with greater intensity.  The moral of the story is, don’t shut your followers up or out.  Be open about your issues, and prove to them that their concerns are being tackled quickly and accordingly. Word-of-mouth works as efficiently for you as it could against you.
  6. Continue engaging.  Consistency is one of the keys for successful social media word of mouth marketing. It takes time to develop relationships offline, so it’s no different online. Keep the conversations going long past your online events or campaigns are over and keep your fans interested.  This way, they know that they matter.  Make them feel special and foster  passionate brand advocates who will continue to recommend you to their friends both online and offline for a long time.

In Japan, they say お客様はお王様, or Customer is King.  Social media has finally made brands throughout the world realize this.  What they say about you determines whether your marketing succeeds or not, so follow the above tips to utilize social media to help you spark positive word of mouth marketing.

What other tips would you add?

If you’re interested in learning more about word of mouth marketing, make sure you check out The Word of Mouth Crash Course: The “How to be Great at Word of Mouth Marketing” Conference. This is being held tomorrow, May 10, 2012, in Austin, Texas. The Word of Mouth Crash Course features 12 how-to classes, 12 real-world case studies, 6 brilliant authors, and an inspiring keynote from former Southwest Airlines President Colleen Barrett — all in one thrilling day. Apply the code NEALSCHAFFER33 to get 33% off your registration.

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
Social Fresh West

Comments

  1. says

    Regarding your #5 (and just like the Belvedere Vodka fiasco), I’m betting that the “ill-conceived Facebook campaign” was designed by (young) males….and that it was public relations (more than likely a female, per Susan Krashinsky of the Globe and Mail) PR practitioner that needed to come in and clean up the marketing mess.

    So here’s my tip: involve females in the creative and approval processes, especially in regards to ad campaigns depicting women in a way that could be perceived as sexist or derogatory. That is, if you don’t want social-media-active females like me providing online commentary.

    If writing it today, I’d add that advice my earlier “Crisis Byte: An Online Shark Attack or Fishy Little Nibbles”

    http://windmillnetworking.com/2011/11/28/crisis-byte-an-online-shark-attack-or-fishy-little-nibbles/

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Judy. Actually, there have been campaigns that have upset females that have been created by females – I believe the Motrin one was one such case. But I totally agree with you that, as a social media strategist, if I was going to create a campaign trying to engage with a certain demographic, that I would want a member of said demographic involved in all stages of planning and implementation. It’s just common sense!

      • says

        Interesting, now you have me researching who was behind the creative of the 2008 Motrin ad campaign. Thought this Wired article was good about discussing how misunderstood were the intentions and how small a part was the social media area:

        http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2008/11/motrin-moms-a-l/

        I see that Kathy Widmer, vice president of marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare served as the spokesperson and official apologist. It’s unclear whether she also approved  the original campaign or was mainly brought in for (PR) clean-up duty.

        BTW, I was always of the opinion that Motrin *reacted* way too fast to what was the complaints of a relatively small group of Mommy bloggers. In the Wired article, you’ll see some Mommy bloggers also felt that way.

        I’m also going to explore what, if anything else, happened in the Belvedere Vodka kerfuffle. Haven’t checked out that one in several weeks.

        Just common sense, indeed. I wish more people in the social media realm had more of it. Cheers.

        • says

          Yes, the Motrin Moms case is an interesting one. I usually present that case study when I speak, and not every female in attendance is offended by the video. The problem is that some were offended – and they started a “viral” campaign within social media. Now, was it a true “crisis” that required them to react with the timing and way that they did? Here’s where opinions will differ. The important learning lesson, I believe, is that you need to add some common sense and make sure that, as a company, you are not sending out any messages that have the chance of offending anybody. Perhaps no one could have imagined the reaction that the Motrin campaign would incite – I don’t know – but I also wonder how much time was spent in advance internally – including PR in the loop – to ensure that the proper “vetting” was done. Very interesting food for thought – and perhaps a future topic for a blog post? ;-)

          • says

            Yes, but this was back in 2008…when social media “marketing” was still in its infancy.

            Getting feedback from constituencies/stakeholders when a campaign is not being well-received it key…and (perhaps) making modifications based on suggestions from same.

            (That same) Susan Krashinsky had a great Adhocracy column a couple of weeks ago about the Kimberly-Clark Corp. Huggies diaper campaign that got it into hot watter. K-C thought it would “speak” to men. It didn’t. But the (partial) recovery included a lot more “engagement” at source than Motrin with the Mommies. But, again, Motrin was four years ago….

            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/marketing/adhocracy/papas-got-a-brand-new-brand/article2422038/

          • says

            Excellent point Judy – perhaps, at some stage, we need to stop using examples from the “early” social media days as it is so much more mainstream now. However, the concepts remain the same, and I do believe, in general, brands are getting much better at “engagement.” From your PR perspective, would you agree?

          • says

            It depends on the company and its leadership (regarding culture), plus how long it has been in the “social business” space.

            I have to say that I was utterly blown away by
            Marie-Josée Lamothe, VP, CMO & CCO, L’Oréal Canada at the Social Media Week Toronto panel: Social Media ROI: Myth or Reality?

            She is totally transforming the engagement factor for L’Oreal Canada’s various stakeholders (tons of companies under that umbrella) through social media, including a social media-only “show.” And she’s dumping expensive items like (much) magazine advertising, because the ROI was showing very little ROI from them…even though it’s magazines people first think of when it comes to cosmetics, hair dye, shampoo, etc.

            But I suspect Marie-Joséeand and her team are exceptional, not the norm.

          • says

            Yes, I believe that most companies are still tackling over the ROI issue. The funny thing is that some of those same companies never really tracked the ROI from their traditional marketing efforts, so when they see how trackable some aspects of social media can be, they “see the light.”

          • says

            I couldn’t agree more Judy ;-) Social media outside of the walls of a business, at the end of the day, means that everyone _inside_ the walls of a business will have to collaborate more because every social media action has the potential to affect so many internal divisions. That’s why, when I consult on social media strategy, I am always asking which internal stakeholders might be affected and make sure they are included as early as possible into the conversation. That’s Social Business Best Practice #1 ;-)

  2. says

    I couldn’t agree with you more on point 5! We work predominately with hospitality clients and trip advisor has had a huge impact on people’s decisions about where to go to eat. Many restaurateurs either delete/complain about negative reviews or simply choose to ignore them.

    However, its not always a bad review that does the damage, its the way they are handled. Nobody expects a restaurant to get it right 100% of the time and there will be some who dont have a perfect time.

    In our experience, responding in a professional way to the negative review has in many cases flipped it into something of a positive because people see how much you care about your customers experiences.

    Numerous times we have converted unhappy customers into loyal regulars, simply through dealing with the review right!

    • says

      Indeed, it’s counter-intuitive, but negative experiences can be turned into positive ones – and in social media, everyone might be watching, so there’s a huge incentive to make things right!

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