WOM in the New Social Media Landscape

Word of mouth, or WOM, has evolved over the last few years from its traditional definition of spoken communication. With the rise of user-generated content via the Web 2.0 movement, web dialogue -- such as blogs, message boards and social networking websites -- is now often included in the definition. Advertisers should realize these changes and continue to adapt to the new online WOM landscape as it adds credibility, removes biases and speaks to a target audience in a grassroots, understandable tone.

All marketers want to know how to identify and reach influencers. Rick Brunner, research director at DoubleClick, identified "influencers" as experts in certain areas with a large social circle who read blogs, social networks and discussion boards. The key thing marketers need to do, according to Rick, is grasp the attention of these influencers. Rick also previewed parts of the DoubleClick Touchpoint data that he received just two days ago. The study consisted of 6,000 respondents and tried to determine what influences a person's product decisions. Rick focused on influencers and explained how the recent data showed that influencers: (1) love media, especially the internet, (2) enjoy watching advertisements, especially if they are funny and (3) make up their minds on a product before going to a store, as a source for product knowledge.

Matt Clement, brand manager for Coca Cola, had some interesting new media approaches to word of mouth that hinged on the following two basic principles: (1) enable a great consumer experience and (2) enable consumers to share a great experience. Matt felt strongly that if a marketer or advertiser could put himself in the position of a customer and was able to provide both points to the customer, then the advertiser is most likely to be successful using WOM.

Matt pointed to two compelling campaigns that he felt did just that. The first campaign was called the "MSN Sprite Refreshing Wall," which was literally an online graffiti board. The board was the ultimate expression of freedom and engaged people to post whatever they wanted to on the wall. This fit nicely into the Sprite drinkers' lifestyle and empowered them to act on their First Amendment rights.

The second campaign is a current Sprite campaign called "SubLYMONal," which created a number of television advertising spots that contained hidden codes that could only be detected if the commercials were recorded via a DVR and played back in slow motion. The campaign was embraced by bloggers, and all the codes were posted on the blogosphere (name for the online blogging community) within three days. This is a great example of how blogging is a type of word-of-mouth steroid. When asked how Matt measured ROI on the campaigns he simply replied, "I don't track ROI."

WOM is important in the wireless arena as friends and family are the number one influencers for wireless product decisions. David Dickey, director of direct email/SMS marketing at Sprint Nextel, explained the Sprint Ambassador Program, which leveraged bloggers for a WOM campaign. The program identified 450 bloggers in the blogosphere and offered each of them a free Sprint Vision phone and six months of service. The key to the program was to be open and transparent, which included keeping top executives educated on new social media throughout the process to help combat the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that can be associated with letting customers control the message through social media.

Ultimately advertisers and markets need to realize that WOM has evolved and that new technology is being leveraged to offer users a great experience in return for WOM.

Frank currently is the product manager for Classified Ventures' Apartments.com, where he focuses on product development and strategy for the consumer website. Read full bio.

 

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