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Word of mouth is more than social media

It’s easy to talk about blogs, Twitter, Facebook. and viral videos.  We can see how they work, we can sign up and play with them.

Word of mouth is much bigger.  It is a wide-spread natural phenomenon that happens online, offline, and everywhere.

Social media is one set of tools that we use help word of mouth travel online.  But … there is far more online word of mouth that doesn’t use social media (more recommendations are shared by plain old email that any new social platform).  And … most social media conversations are not discussions about products.

Agencies like to focus us on a social media strategy, because they already have web/digital departments who can make cool Facebook apps and TV producers who can stick those ads on YouTube.  There are far fewer agencies with a deep understanding of the complete word of mouth conversation.

From my book:

One of the great misconceptions about word of mouth marketing is that it’s all happening online. The role of the internet and the new ways people use it to communicate are indisputably critical components of the sudden spread of word of mouth. Blogs are a big deal because they empower lots of people to share ideas.

But that’s only a part of it—only about 20% of word of mouth happens online. When it does play a role, it usually sparks the 80% of word of mouth conversations that actually happen face to face.

Real word of mouth dips in and out of different spaces. You eat at a good restaurant. You mention it to people at the office. One of them emails your recommendation to his wife. She emails four friends, and they have lunch there. Two mention the restaurant to other friends at a party, and one of them blogs it. Someone reads the blog and calls a buddy about eating there. They review it online.

You get the idea.

So remember, social media is important and useful, but it’s only a small part of the conversation.  (More data here.)

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  1. Tim Tracey May 9, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    “When it does play a role, it usually sparks the 80% of word of mouth conversations that actually happen face to face. ”
    So true – ad budgets have been wasted attempting to artificially create WOM.
    But two beautiful things about WOM are:
    1). it will always happen – it’s an unstoppable force
    2). it is brutally honest
    When advertisers learn to harness & facilitate WOM (vs. faking it) they’ll learn its true value. As I wrote, “We can’t always improve on Nature – but we can copy it.”
    – – T

  2. @MattWilsontv May 9, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    WOM on SM travels way quicker, but what it comes down to is creating something that people WANT to talk about and tell their friends.
    Think about Napster spreading throughout the college dorms. It’s something worth spreading and people are in the same geographic location–you can tell everyone in your hall in an instant. SM creates this same kind of phenomenon.

  3. Rajtilak Bhattacharjee May 9, 2009 at 9:12 pm #

    Quite true. Without offline promotion, a brand cannot achieve the culmination point of its success.

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