Gmail, currently the world’s most used email service, had started out with an invite-only system whereby only an existing user could ‘invite’ you to create your own Gmail account. This feeling of exclusivity generated a lot of curiosity and interest in the service, and the tactic fueled enough word-of-mouth engagement for people to want to adopt it. The demand was so high at the time that some people even bought invites worth USD 200 from eBay!
For brands, such buzz within consumer circles is music to their ears. Neilson reports that 92% of consumers value recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
Connecting to the buzz
The digital revolution has changed word-of-mouth marketing from being a personal act of one-to-one communication, to being a one-to-many sharing. This is exemplified by online product reviews, discussion boards, social network opinions broadcast, and blogs set up to discuss brands.
First, businesses need to make a considered choice of which platforms to be present on according to their target audience segments. Social media platforms are evolving, with many offering new functionalities for customer service and interactions between brands and consumers. Second, organizations must decide the specific way(s) that communication is carried out on that platform. Snap, for instance, is centered on live, in-the-moment content and led by mobile. LinkedIn, on the other hand, has researched, industry-leading posts leading to, a wide spectrum of branded online conversations.
Marketing content must be “sticky” for specific mediums or platforms. Visual content and live video are popular ways of to make messages stick; “going live” especially increases excitement and allows real-time interaction with consumers. The user gets pulled in to be a part of the brand, so content that is interactive travels far and wide. And interactive content can come in various forms, such as quizzes, calculators, infographics, and crowd-sourced contests. For instance, Grazia UK had successfully launched a project called ‘Community Issue’, throughout which the magazine live-streamed various events occurring behind-the-scenes, such as a live debate; users could contribute to the debate by using a hashtag on Facebook.
One component of marketing is engagement—being responsive to customers on channels and platforms where they are active. This entails giving your customers reasons to talk about your product or service. Big data and applied analytics makes understanding your customer easier and more insightful. The ever-connected customer yields a treasure-trove of data with the Internet of Things. This can guide marketers in placing the right message at the right time for consumers to have a positive experience that they will want to talk about. This is also closely linked to machine learning that mines big data to understand customer inclinations and tap into their behavior effectively.
The second component is that marketers can leverage the digital world to provide more conduits for word-of-mouth marketing, thereby making the ‘conversation’ more accessible to consumers. Building or integrating with digital communities can transform how consumers perceive and engage with a brand. For example, Xbox’s forum, ‘Xbox Ambassadors, is an advanced community for hardcore aficionados who provide a big support base, host shows, give product feedback, and are, in turn, rewarded with merchandise and freebies.
Technology solutions can do this effortlessly. Infinite’s core business platform, Zyter®, is one such intelligent and smart connectivity platform, which makes it simple and seamless for enterprises to execute external communication and networking campaigns. It is an effective springboard to launch digital and marketing campaigns.
Other digital channels include developing mobile applications or using wearable technology. Even intelligent mobile advertising—backed by analytics on consumer preferences and habits—can go a long way in engaging customers and creating interest in your product or campaign.
Further, innovations are opening more possibilities. For instance, retailers like Target are using ‘beacon technology’ in their digital marketing. With beacons—physical landmarks that can send signals to mobile devices—retailers are sending push-notifications to shoppers, showing them special deals on offer through the store.
Very helpfully, automation can now seed messages from marketers in active communities, and pick up on conversation threads. This helps create a more responsive and accessible voice and presence for your brand.
Tools are available to measure social conversations and capture the sentiment of word-of-mouth buzz. For instance, Zyphor®, which is a social media listening platform developed by Infinite, helps marketing professionals read the pulse of their brand on Twitter and get detailed analytics on the trends influencing the brand. McKinsey uses a metric it calls ‘word-of-mouth equity’ to measure not just the volume of messages or buzz, but also how well they perform, by assessing the sales impact of a brand message multiplied by the number of word-of-mouth messages.
Clearly, when word-of-mouth marketing is backed by data and analytics in its planning and execution, one can monitor its performance better. With technology tools adding several degrees of measurability and helping track its effectiveness, word-of-mouth marketing is now certainly an easier puzzle to solve.