According to Investopedia, word-of-mouth marketing (WOM marketing) is when a consumer’s interest in a company’s product or service is reflected in their daily dialogs. Classically, is it is free advertising (publicity) triggered by customer experiences — and usually, something that goes beyond what they expected.
Word-of-mouth marketing can be supported through different publicity activities set up by companies, or by having opportunities to promote consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communications. Also called referred to as “WOM” or “word-of-mouth advertising,” WOM marketing includes buzz, viral, blog, emotional, and social media marketing. In BrandingLeaks, I endorse that the personal recommendations spread through WON are the best way to mitigate, or also to eliminate the hasty and unweighted judgment of certain brands.
Long before social media, the use of WOM as a marketing tool was a rather expensive job, basically because to reach a large number of potential consumers, the work relied heavily on radio, newspaper, magazine, and costly television advertising campaigns. A significant concern was the suspicion that the messages conveyed by the media were not assimilated and reproduced along with the target public and its network of contacts.
Without resources for similar investments, small business owners and professionals like doctors, engineers, lawyers, plumbers, among others, were left with the willingness of their clients and friends to spread their good (or bad) reputation. A few more organized and resourceful professionals invested in flyers, folders, signposts on their doors, or even billboards. It was practically a one-a-one client mining job.
Because it is based on testimonials of satisfactory (or not) consumer experiences, it is undisputed that WOM is still considered a powerful communication tool, and should be a priority for any communication plan. Pioneer American companies and owners of dominant best and valuable global brands such as Procter and Gamble, General Foods, and Unilever developed the discipline of brand management.
They also created the position of brand ambassadors, which I consider the basis of the modern and organized version of the classic WOW in the figure of social media influencers nowadays. Brand ambassadors designate people who are paid to testify temporarily or not in favor of brands. The work is aimed at reaching out to specific audiences, such as employees of competitors, the government, and society in general. The primary goal is, of course, the intention of making sales. But there are also considerable additional advantages, such as getting the company and its ambitions to reach massive and diversified audiences with the additional benefit of forming a public relations policy foundation.
As many resources as large companies could invest, WOM still charged the price for its time. Attracting, captivating, and educating ambassadors to propagate genuine and enthusiastic testimonials for the brands they represented was not a task whose results could be expected in the short term, especially in the case of positive testimonies. As for the unfavorable testimonials, it is well known, the news has always been and will continue to move much faster and at almost negligible costs.
A study published by World in Data revealed that Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world, has 2.4 billion users. Other social media platforms, including Youtube and Whatsapp, also have more than one billion users each. These numbers are huge – there are 7.7 billion people in the world, with at least 3.5 billion of us online. We can infer that social media platforms are used by one-in-three people in the world and more than two-thirds of all internet users.
Vast amounts of hype and noise may surround social media, but real commercial opportunities lie behind all the excitement. If your business’s marketing strategy doesn’t include an active social media element, here are six reasons you need to change that — and carefully.
Most social media users are online every day, with their favorite platform playing a considerable role in their lives. If you establish a strong presence that’s seen daily by your target market, the branding benefits are immense. However, the danger of digital routine is the risk of vulgarity, which can compromise both brand and influencer reputation. In this sense, quality and updated content is king.
Astute branding professionals will always rely on good content. Whether selling cars, bottles of ketchup, homes, or promoting your knowledge, goods, or services must be committed to delivering tangible and intangible benefits that meet expectations known and unknown to world audiences.
I highlight the ability to meet unfamiliar needs, as they will add value to the time that audiences have devoted their attention to influencers, and, consequently, will value the messenger brands. Knowing, communicating, and delivering what everyone already delivers does not add value and contributes to the reduction of brand prestige, among other losses. The competent influencer will be aware of this factor and will seek to help the brand manager and adjust their communication plan.
Size may not count
Followers may not be the best metric for choosing the right influencer for your brand. People can be right influencers having them 5,000, 50,000, 500,000, or millions of followers. It depends on the business you are in and which audience you want to communicate. If any of those influencers can get the attention of the right people and make them stop what they are doing to hear your message, you hired the right person. Besides, many people have a natural vocation to maximize the size of everything they own, not rarely, by using dubious accuracy metrics.
One must not forget that WOM was born from the practice of giving personal testimony, but it is wise to believe that it has been practiced since man exists. The testimonials could be honest, fanciful, positive or negative, and there was no guarantee that the people or business recommended could deliver what their reputation meant. The point is that the witness was almost always around, and, in the case of an illegitimate reference, he knew that he would also put his reputation at risk in that small social circle.
The same can happen today, and much faster, yet involving many more people and audiences than in the past. The boundaries of a small village, city, state, or country have been torn down over the internet. Just as the benefits of WOM are great, so are its risks.
A study published by The Drum revealed that most global Internet users lack confidence in what they see and read online, with only 8% believing that the bulk of information shared on social media is true, dropping to 4% when it comes from influencers. The figures come from media agency UM, which found just a tiny minority of internet users agreed that the ‘three-quarters or more’ of the insight they gleaned from platforms like Facebook and Instagram was correct.
On the same measurement, even governments were seen as more trustworthy than most celebrity influencers or bloggers/vloggers, with 12% of people globally saying information shared by governments was ‘mostly truthful.’ However, people in the UK and the US were more skeptical with these numbers falling to 8% and 6% in those regions, respectively. UM tracked more than 56,000 active internet users across 81 countries for its 10th ‘Wave’ study, evaluating trust in social media.
From a different perspective, a study published by Forbes perceives the role of influencers from a bright angle, this one concerning Internet advertising, where influencers seem like the new celebrity endorsements. Data from the influencer marketing platform MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. With 47% of customers using Adblock technology, conventional digital advertising channels often have limited effectiveness. According to Bloomberg, $255 million is spent on influencer marketing every month.
Social media offers instant communication with customers but without the logistical difficulties and real-time pressure of handling telephone calls. That makes it a perfect medium for support and customer services at a relatively low cost. But high-speed communication can also be a big problem, not just because of the risk of spreading an untruth or incorrect information about a sales campaign, for example. If the purpose of using an influencer is for a storytelling process, the communication must follow the narrative rhythm, consistently and in line with the audience’s ability to adhere.
Social media offers a plethora of commercially valuable data available whenever you want. But this benefit cannot be confused with the conventional indicators already provided, such as the number of views, positive x negative comments, among others. If your goal is qualitative, levels of awareness may prove fruitless.
The job involves the need to work with performance indicators that take into account the cost-benefit ratio of each campaign. While increased sales can easily measure conversion impacts, for example, awareness impacts are more difficult to monitor because they consume more evaluation time and certainly costing much more.
All brands are global brands, but not all are the best and most valuable brands. Physical location doesn’t matter with social media. If your business needs a global presence, then working with social is a no-brainer if you wish to become a valuable brand.
However, if your brand has a limited global reach, for example, only for a country beyond yours, the choice of influencer will naturally fall to someone who has credibility and talent in both countries. It will probably help to save money, but it is rarely possible, especially if the campaign involves launching a new mass product.
On the other hand, a globally recognized influencer may be the most expensive yet not always the most effective solution, especially if he or she is the ambassador for a vast number of brands. The studies I published in BrandingLeaks evidence that reputation is an intangible factor of value, yet at the cost of permanently skating on thin ice, especially in times of political correctness.
People once dismissed social media as a fad, but the billions of dollars in Facebook’s bank account should put that notion to rest. In today’s digital arena, a social presence is essential for any brand that wants to succeed online in global markets for all those mentioned reasons and more.