It takes a community to build a brand
Before the Internet, WOM marketing occurred naturally through social networking. Individuals with similar values and interests formed communities and marketers worked hard to get their brands talked about in such communities. This traditional WOM was the offline version of the new social media marketing of today that should form an integral part of modern marketing strategies.
More than 90% of consumers identify WOM referrals as the most reliable, authentic and trustworthy source of information on brands. Why?
People put their reputations on the line when making a recommendation, which means that their friends, family and community take their word seriously. Also, because like-minded people form communities and networks, members often resonate with the same things. So if your best friend highly recommends a movie, chances are you will think seriously about seeing the movie and will probably like it equally as much.
Another valuable characteristic of WOM referrals is honesty. People don't generally lie about their feelings to members of their community, making WOM one of the most trusted and reliable forms of referral marketing out there. How do you infiltrate communities with your brand?
Getting your brand into relevant communities is a difficult challenge for marketers, which is why more and more WOM specialists around the world are putting social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and MXiT into the marketing mix. South Africa has over eight million MXiT users and over two million Facebook users, so getting your brand integrated into the conversation means you should be in one or more of these spaces.
Once you're in, how you communicate with your target community is the other challenge. You should also ensure that your marketing messages are interesting, authentic, understood - and importantly - talked about. Here are some essential WOM rules that Gullan&Gullan recommends to clients who want to take their brands into the social media space:
- Own your online presence - claim your brand name across all the major social media platforms before your advocates or adversaries do it for you
- Get with it - if you don't have a presence, your consumers will assume your brand has been left behind.
- Trusted conversation - integrate your brand messages in an authentic manner. Imagine you are sitting talking with friends around a dinner table. How would you talk about a brand experience? You wouldn't lapse into highly-crafted copywriter speak, but would integrate it into the conversation at a natural time, using natural language. The same applies with social media marketing.
- Monitor the conversation - not only will your online presence give you authentic consumer feedback and insights, it will also give you the opportunity to clarify confusion and incorrect info.
Remember, traditional WOM occurs via the grapevine. Social media WOM happens via the information super-highway - in nano-seconds. The benefits of WOM are infinite for creating brand awareness, recognition, engagement, conversation - and importantly - referrals.