I’m certain I’m not alone in my thinking of social media as a platform to scale word of mouth (WOM) marketing. People participate in social media to interact with friends and like-minded strangers about things that interest them. Social media marketers engage their customers in ways that encourage them to spread the word. Viola! Everyone is talking about brands.
Well, that may not be what’s happening. Compared to offline, there’s very little WOM being generated on social media.
What’s going on and what does this mean for our social media strategies?
This week’s The Advertising Research Foundation’s Audience Measurement 6.0 Symposium included a session on WOM with Ed Keller of Keller Fay Group and Emily Vanides of MediaVest. Conversation Triggers commenced with the accolades for WOM I expected.
Vanides cited an April 2010 report from McKinsey that call WOM, “The most disruptive factor in marketing.” Reinforcing our collective notion of the power of earned media, the report also states that “Marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer WOM generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising,” and WOM, “Can deliver a significant competitive edge few other marketing approaches can match.”
Having just listened to Knowledge Networks’ presentation on the growing influence of social media on purchasing decisions, I figured we were just a few slides away from social media being crowned the king of WOM. It appears that as much as social media has changed our networked world, it hosts only a small bit of the conversations about brands, products and companies. Not what social media marketers talking amongst themselves would expect.
What sparks conversation?
WOM is not only generated by brand experiences, marketing as well can be a spark. As it relates to maximizing WOM, we need to be aware of how marketing can most effectively trigger conversations based on content and context — media type, time of day, venue, conversation topic, product category, etc.
The deep research reveals much about the character of WOM. For example, while 20% of WOM conversations are triggered by media/marketing, half of all conversations about brands have references to media/marketing. In addition, positive experiences trigger more WOM than negative, as well as 75% of the conversations presenting positive.
Why is social media a WOM underperformer?
As reported in the Knowledge Solutions’ study, last year’s report from HP Labs and other sources, most people on social media networks are passive. Will the volume of WOM on social media pick up with the general level of engagement over time? Does social media WOM require different triggers from offline. Are our earned media skills as marketers not as well developed on social media as they are offline? Or am I not yet asking the right question?
What do you think?
Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, where he delivers malarky-free social, digital and linear media solutions. Join his conversation on Twitter or email Neil to talk about marketing or swap recipes.