Social Media is a misnomer; Word of Mouth is an outcome, not a technique

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After a power meeting with Justin Kirby, founder of Yooster (a word-of-mouth opinion poll) and author of Connected Marketing, I thought it worthwhile to comment on two of Justin’s key mantras:

The People are the Media

The People are the Media

1/ “Social media is a misnomer.” Social media (“SM”) sites such as Twitter or Facebook are technologies where people come to deposit content. Such sites are, therefore, just locations where people congregate.  The people are the media. I believe that this is a very powerful point.  The key concept is the “social” part of the SM phrase.  People provide the content, the connections and the relationships.  Marketers must find ways to inspire or surprise consumers in such a fashion that the “message” is voluntarily spread, igniting customer-customer conversation.  This means going beyond “hey, that was cool.”  The next part, not the least important from a business standpoint, is figuring out how to garner customer advocacy and to capitalise on that desire to share.  Click-through-rates are unsatisfactory to the extent that there is no end game.  Great notoriety without great sales is simply not a viable long-term option. The real game changer is when the people are so impassioned, that they become the message.

2/ “Word of mouth (WOM) is an outcome, not a set of techniques.” WOM marketing as it is practised today is fraught with old school marketing mentality.  What Justin means here is that many companies (read: marketing departments) are merely looking to buy social media “space” (typically in the form of email databases) just as they used to buy media space and to apply their marketing message into the social media space.  For example, buying email databases to send out a “viral” film is barely different from television advertising in that, philosophically, it’s a hit or miss interruptive activity.  Essentially, this would equate to practicing marketing 1.0 in a web 2.0 costume.  This is par for the course: marketers will tend to pull on their past experience to create their marketing strategy.  The challenge is that the playing field has shifted and, specifically, the consumer – who has lost trust, if not patience, with the brand marketers – is more informed, fickle and discerning.  In Justin’s various pieces, he discusses the differences between viral, word of mouth and buzz marketing.  (Check out this podcast, an interview of Justin by Simon Van Wyk, MD HotHouse).  To summarize, I would position each as follows.  ”Viral marketing” is hoping that a message is shared with a large element of hit or miss. Word of mouth is merely the age-old consequence of good marketing.  And buzz marketing is the creation of excitement in certain circles without any easy link to sales metrics; buzz is the lowest form of a positive outcome you can hope for as an internet marketer.  One of the big challenges going forward will be to find ways to measure appropriately customer engagement and advocacy in qualitative terms rather than just iterative quantitative metrics.

Getting in touch with your customer

Getting in touch with your customer

The most “social” sense is touch as in: “I was really touched by that.”  A strong WOM is possible when you break through the walls of suspicion and get in touch with someone’s emotions.  As consumers are ever more wary of marketers — with growing evidence that they are becoming less trusting even of their own friends and circles — marketing whizzes are going to have to work harder and more creatively to create surprise, beat expectations and get the word out.  If there is still more opportunity today than there will be tomorrow, getting the word out and capturing the hearts and minds of the consumer will take good old fashioned sweat and blood (very human qualities).  The noise level is high.  The playing field is basically even. And the new technologies and platforms are likely to continue mushrooming.  Work is going to be the next big thing in social media marketing.

I do encourage you to please comment, argue or share!

7 Comments, RSS

  1. David Ednie March 12, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

    Social Media, Web2.0, Internet Marketing, online Buzz, etc… the challenge remains the same: being truly relevant to our audience (buyers). Technology has increased the ease of reaching larger and larger audiences at the risk of our message being irrelevant to them. Until we can answer the killer question: how does this engage my audience (buyers) around their issues? Getting in touch with your audiences (buyers) emotions is where the heavy lifting needs to be done.

  2. Pierre-Julien Grizel March 15, 2010 @ 10:18 am

    I do agree with David when he says that "The challenge remains the same".
    I'm not sure that "Social Media" is such a misnomer. Social media means that the social / relationship component is part of the media itself.
    Maybe the two important keywords for those new media strategies are "Proximity" and "Engagement".
    The best Social Media marketing plans are probably the ones which leverage both strategies : proximity help reach people's networks. Engagement help getting in touch with the audience (as David says).

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