Social Media: Electronic Word of Mouth?

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With socially connected websites becoming more and more ubiquitous, we have been trying to define what this means for businesses and how it will affect their marketing strategies in the future.

Collective Intelligence and Shared Knowledge

The widespread use of elements of collective intelligence within websites to date, has created some of the most successful websites including Amazon, eBay, Youtube, Google, Groupon, Twitter and many others. This trend is also accelerating with the introduction of Google Places and Deals, Facebook Places and Offers and a plethora of others.

So what is this ‘Collective Intelligence’ and why is it having an impact on marketing?

Quite simply in many cases, it can be summarised as ‘electronic word of mouth‘. It is widely accepted that ‘word of mouth’ marketing is probably the most effective form of marketing – a direct referral from another person who has experienced the product and had a positive experience. Similarly, the old skool of marketing maintains that negative ‘word of mouth’ has an equal or greater damaging effect on a brand.

In the social media space, the key difference is that electronic word of mouth can spread rapidly and virally and it emerges in places we are not always aware of. In a negative scenario, because customers are far more likely to report bad news than good, this can mean a forest fire of negativity. In a similar way to a forest fire, it is almost impossible to put the fire put, though it is possible to manage the fire as best you can to stop the spread, particularly if our positive customers are able to get their message to others. At the same time, if done badly, it can have the effect of putting the fire out with kerosene and then frantically fanning the flames.

As marketers, our role is always to make sure that the positive aspects of our product outweigh the negative and that the customer is able to understand why this is the case. After all, it is unusual for someone to develop a product which genuinely underperforms existing products in the space at a higher price.

Can I control Social Media?

One common theme we see when speaking to businesses about social media, is that they are looking for a way to control it. Control the message, control the perception, control the audience. This is where social media and electronic word of mouth has changed the game somewhat. In most cases, like conventional communication, it is not possible to control the receiver, we can only take control of ourselves and how we transmit and this is where social media becomes a challenge for conventional marketers.

With direct marketing, we can select the audience through profiling existing customers, we can define the message we want to send to them, we can connect our product or service to the customers needs and wants and then generate a response through our communication.

Through social media, we have to help our customers to communicate with each other and ideally, those customers who have a positive message will outweigh those who haven’t had a good experience for whatever reason – let’s remember that all companies have customers with a negative experience. You are not alone.

Listening not speaking is difficult for some of us…

How this is achieved, is driving whole new methods of communication, many are using listening to our customers and prospects as a tool to respond! This can only be a good thing in the long term for the customer.

One final thought however, is the impact this may have on future marketing. As with the massive growth in search engine optimisation during the last 5-10 years, the next generation of marketing might well be ‘reputation optimisation’, where the positive messages are sought, captured and then marketed to others. For major brands, this is already happening, though when it moves into mainstream businesses, it may just be the next big thing.

Come back and see if we are right!

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About the Author:

KnowledgeBank work with Companies to develop their data driven marketing solutions to generate profitable new customer relationships. We also deliver social media training, consultancy and strategy to hundreds of businesses across the UK. If you would like further information about how you can develop your own marketing activity or social media, please contact us on 01772 978 101.