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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.