By Ryan McFadyen, Co-owner and Managing Partner of HaveYouHeard
Social media and Word Of Mouth Marketing are not the same thing. They are companions travelling along the same road, yes, but more often than not they have different starting points and destinations.
Social media is a space of communication and that communication can and is used for a myriad of different topics.
For example, consider the argument of “life imitating art or art imitating life”. People are becoming more and more discerning when it comes to advertising and the fact that someone would write something positive about a service or product online because of a personal recommendation from someone they trust, has become much more likely.
In a Global Trust in Advertising survey done by Nielsen, figures showed that 14% of people trust ads and 78% trust consumer recommendations. Web monitoring site Pingdom lists the number of worldwide blogs at a staggering 152 million.
In the ever-evolving world of the internet, these figures have undoubtedly risen already in the time you have read this sentence. Amazing tools, apps and insights have been developed in recent times that enable us to understand how word of mouth conversations not only travels, but also how we can follow what consumers are saying about companies.
As blogs and online communities have grown exponentially and put much of the verbal consumer-to-consumer conversations in writing, it is so much easier to measure. From there, we can take that online conversation and project it into the offline world.
This is a major knowledge boom for marketers. It enables you to understand what consumers really think about your brand, your marketing and your products. It provides a level of genuine understanding that is more authentic than data painstakingly acquired through surveys and study groups.
A recent initiative by US company BrandsEye, called Crowd, has the impact of online and social media mentions of a brand taken to a much more accurate and human level. They enlisted thousands of people to go through posts and messages and identify which were positive, negative or irrelevant.
The work was done through a creative and fun application that rewarded users as an initiative. After all, a machine can only pick up the word “apple”, but discerning whether it’s a fruit or a company is a decidedly human trait. Of course, this does not necessarily translate directly into WOMM impact, but it does mean that online presence is being narrowed down.
When faced with the prospect of measuring the online impact of a WOMM campaign, it is more a case of word-of-mouth to online than it is a case of online to word-of-mouth. Traditionally, people are more likely to put things on Facebook that they are talking about, than talk about things they are putting on Facebook. This is changing however.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become so ingrained in our culture and communication and time and again it is the only way many people have contact. The tables are turning, where people are now more than ever, apt to say “hey, you heard about that [X brand] campaign running on Facebook?” or “Did you see [X brand/person]’s latest Tweet?”
This is especially true when an exceptionally successful or disastrous company to consumer interaction takes place online. AOL lost 800, 000 users when a dissatisfied customer posted a video to Youtube wherein he talks to an AOL representative in a futile effort to deactivate his account. The video resulted in hundreds of thousands of views and AOL was forced to pay out millions of dollars after investigations.
McKinsey Quarterly states that “…the digital revolution has amplified and accelerated its reach to the point where word of mouth is no longer an act of intimate, one-on-one communication”. People create blogs to either praise or lambast brands, and opinions are circulated more widely and freely than ever before.
In the face of advertising/ branding efforts like celebrity Twitter endorsements however, this raises the question of credibility and trust. Your brand will be mentioned online either because people love it, because they hate it, because they’ve been asked an opinion about it or their community is talking about it.
The burning question however, is how can we specifically measure WOMM’s effect on a brand’s social media presence? Its straightforward really; by being in that space. Just like hearing what people talk about on the street, a brand must keep its finger on the digital pulse.
People are constantly having conversations online, a digital word of mouth if you will. It is critical for brands to take online mentions in the right light. Simply measuring it and thinking an online presence is in itself enough, is not enough.
The key is managing the content, whether good or bad, and just as in WOM, interacting on a one-on-one basis as much as possible. Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and EdgeRank are all good and well, but a brand’s real power is by being down in the trenches with its customers – by treating them like a friend. They will thank you for it, in person and in their news feeds.