5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts of Effective Word of Mouth Marketing

Marketers are working hard to turn word of mouth and social media marketing into sales.Guest blogger Cara Fuggetta, of social media marketing company Zuberance, offers advice on how top brand marketers, such as JetBlue and Microsoft, as well as agency Big Fuel, are achieving their successes.

Marketers are working hard to turn word of mouth and social media marketing into sales. Guest blogger Cara Fuggetta, of social media marketing company Zuberance, offers advice on how top brand marketers, such as JetBlue and Microsoft, as well as agency Big Fuel, are achieving their successes.

Fuggetta drives corporate social media strategy and events for Zuberance. Follow her conversation on Twitter, where she connects with people spanning her interests (marketing, hip hop and San Francisco Giants fans) 140 characters at a time.

Do’s of Word of Mouth Marketing & Brand Advocacy

1. First and foremost, listen to your customers. Give them a chance to invest in your company with their wisdom, thought, and feedback. During JetBlue’s Spring Leadership Conference, they tweeted to their 1.6 million followers, “What would you say to JetBlue’s leadership in 140 characters?” The twitter replies were posted on the screen in front of every officer and director of the company.

2. Systematically identify your Advocates. Use the “Ultimate Question” to identify Brand Advocates: On a scale from 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our brand/service to a friend or colleague? 9’s and 10’s are considered “Advocates.” Microsoft’s SMB leverages multiple channels to identify Advocates including Facebook, Twitter and their Business Insights Newsletter.

3. Be relevant to your audience. Consider “The 6am test”- What’s important to consumers when they wake up? Be relevant to your audience on their agenda and tap into their interests. A great example of this is a recent campaign by Kotex called “What Fits You?” In efforts to reach a younger audience, Kotex interviewed thousands of female college students at 15 different campuses asking them to discuss what they’re passionate about. The hyper-localized video content was shared not only within the social networks of the individual colleges, but was also used for targeted commercials and on-site displays. As a result of the campaign, Kotex was able to sell a year’s worth of product in about two months.

4. Create a place for engagement. Create a community that facilitates engagement and dialogue among your Advocates. Microsoft has created a community where Microsoft Advocates and “experts” can talk among themselves and lend each other help with product issues. These Advocates offer their help because they like to be recognized for their expertise and out of their passion for Microsoft.

5. Make it easy to spread Word of Mouth. The key to energizing Word of Mouth is to make it easy for your Advocates to recommend. They are already evangelizing you in the offline world. Encourage them to make these recommendations on the social web by giving them the tools to write reviews, create testimonials, and share offers with their network. Remember, your Advocates are present across various channels, not necessarily just in one place. Be sure you are focused on engaging them where they are, not forcing them to engage where you want them to be.

Don’ts of Word of Mouth Marketing & Brand Advocacy

1. Don’t give influencers special perks. Don’t do anything for influencers that you wouldn’t do for all of your customers. Brands shouldn’t be giving away freebies to people based on the size of their following on the social web. “That’s just evil,” as Morgan Johnston of JetBlue put it. However, brands can align themselves with certain influencers in order to gain credibility, which allows brands to gain entry into a consumer pathway and to build advocacy through the influencer channel. Deliver your message across the social graph through both influencers (i.e. individuals with a substantial social following such as bloggers) and Advocates (who may or may not even have a Twitter or a Facebook.)

2. Don’t pay your customers to advocate your brand. Not only is it not needed, it’s wrong to make brand recommendations a quid pro quo. The last time you recommended a movie, hotel, or restaurant, were you paid? It is, however, appropriate to acknowledge and thank Advocates for being such valuable customers. One way to do this is to recognize and increase your Advocates’ status and reputation within the circle of your brand as a result of their loyalty, similar to how frequent flyers are able to board flights first.

3. Doing nothing is not an option. By not recognizing and engaging with your Advocates, you run the risk of converting them to detractors. Social media allows everyone to have a voice. You need to be listening and engaging across channels.

4. One size doesn’t fit all. Don’t launch a social media program because you feel you have to keep up with everyone else. Take the time to strategize and focus on what you are trying to achieve in your social marketing efforts and what value you should be providing your audience.

5. Fail fast and fail forward. Don’t be afraid to fail, but fail fast, which is one of TiVo’s mantras. Make sure you truly understand the reasons for failure and learn from it. When you find a social media tactic that works, move it from to experimentation to optimization and push down on the accelerator.

Fuggetta’s recommendations were taken in part from the conversation at a recent interactive panel discussion in New York City moderated by Advertising Age. You can find more on this subject from the recording and on-site interviews with panelists and attendees from the New York Brand Advocacy Series event and on Zuberance’s blog, Zuber RantsSocial Times profiled the Zuberance Advocate Platform as part of our What You Need to Know series.