People communicate in many ways, exchanging opinions online and via word of mouth, customers can talk over many different channels. People talk and discuss their opinions everywhere, especially on social media. There are many opportunities to discuss experiences with brands and individual customer experiences, customer service, and satisfaction, these are often particularly personal with a subjective nature. We will look at the power of WOM marketing (Word of Mouth) through social media and how powerful the use of social media marketing is for consumer brands. This will also focus on the rise of influencer marketing, and how brands use influencers to promote and expand their online presence.
What is Word of Mouth (WOM) Marketing?
Word of Mouth Marketing is “the process of actively influencing and encouraging organic word of mouth discussion” (Yotpo, 2020) about brands and companies. Word of mouth marketers and advertisers aim to create something worth talking about, encouraging people to engage and talk about it. A consumer’s interest in companies, products, or services is reflected in daily dialogues and triggered by customer experiences. It can be encouraged through publicity activities or consumer communications, including viral, blog, buzz, emotional and social media marketing.
WOM marketing strategies include partner marketing, influencer channels, referral programs, and affiliate campaigns, bringing more engagement and revenue for your company. People love referrals and trust friends and family when making purchasing decisions. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Nielsen also claims that 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over company advertising, and 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer within their purchasing decisions (BigCommerce, 2018). This is because the brand is not recommending the product but a real and unbiased person. Therefore, it becomes an organic action that needs to remain this way to be effective.
There is organic word of mouth and amplified word of mouth, this can happen in two ways, organically and through marketing and advertising campaigns. A good word of mouth marketing strategy will increase organic word of mouth. Organic word of mouth occurs when people become advocates when they’re happy with a product and want to share their support and enthusiasm. Amplified word of mouth arises through launch campaigns; these are designed for encouragement or acceleration of word of mouth in communities.
The Power of WOM
Word of mouth is customised to the digital network society and has an exponential effect powered by online communication channels. The main 5 reasons to motivate to engage in word-of-mouth are focus-related utility, consumption utility, approval utility, moderator-related utility, and homeostase utility (Balasubramanian and Mahajan, 2001). The rise of online communication increases the speed messages are shared. However, the cost is lower than other forms of marketing and the ROI is higher. Therefore, word-of-mouth marketing also seeks to start exponential referral, driving traffic, leads, and sales. Word of mouth is an answer to a client-oriented economy, helping facilitate lead generation, driving sales and conversions. WOM helps the client-oriented economy and occurs between people who determine what they want to share. It shortens the buying process and speeds up the decision process.
Marketers need to have an integrated and holistic view of interactions within customer-centricity. Word-of-mouth messages also need to be customised for the consumer. An example is the high-performing brand Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. This produced a buzz by printing popular names on their bottles, offering a unique customer experience, and allowing people to engage with the brand outside their typical norm. They even added a hashtag for customers to share their photos online and to participate by sharing personalised bottles with friends in person and on social media. They also created events where consumers could create their own personalised Coke bottle.
How WOM Works
Recent studies show that the long-term effectiveness of WOM referrals is 2.5 times higher than that of advertising (Brandmatters.com, 2014) and continues to affect consumer actions. You can gain consumer loyalty with word of mouth and customer referral programmes to gain new customers. A Forbes study produced by Goethe University revealed that customers recommended to businesses were 18% more likely to stay than other customers. It claims that “People tend to have a stronger attachment to an organisation if their friends or acquaintances share a bond to the share establishment” (Forbes, 2010). Therefore, social acceptance and recognition belonging to a social group motivate people to share experiences, further contributing to their social circle and brand awareness. Referral marketing is a segment of WOM that focuses on targeting specific individuals and encourages them to refer to friends and family. It is a proactive way of generating new customers, controlling the referral process, and tracking conversion.
Forward-thinking companies use social listening strategies to gain real-time access to consumer insights. This allows for the measurement of social media engagement, building strategies for brand loyalty and sales. This optimises product development with the use of consumer feedback and insights. These enable content creation that sets us apart from competitors and resonates with target audiences. When customers become brand advocates, they help build trustworthiness and authenticity by sharing and communicating on social media. Therefore, it is crucial to have social proof to build your brand.
Social media data improve marketing strategies, enabling brands to capture insights from online conversations and identify existing fans of your brand. Consumer behaviour lets us understand consumer needs and expectations for target campaigns. Social media also helps consumers express themselves more often and allows messages to reach further. This allows brands to gather large amounts of customer feedback to improve customer experience. Customer reviews also expand into channels and platforms and are shared through other channels. Brands motivate customers to remain loyal by showing they are listening and responding to customer feedback. Social data can be used during the sales process in identifying prospects, finding new customers, and building new customer relationships. At Free4you, we understand that feedback and insights are key to understanding and developing consumer relationships. We work with brands to gain qualitative and quantitative insights directly from targeted audiences, we ask the questions that really matter and deliver insights with tangible outputs.
Social Media Marketing
Social media builds brands through content and engagement, and companies have realised they can use these for marketing. Social media is important because businesses should be active and respond to their customers to understand their need. Active social media presence and interaction helps improve communication and customer satisfaction strategies. It allows you to gain valuable insights into customer behaviour, measure conversions on posts and see what attracts your audience.
Social Media Influence
Social media are tools that help people connect, whereas WOM is the behaviour that allows people to engage whilst using these tools. It remains a powerful way to influence business results, creating experiences to be passed from person to person. An example of powerful social media success is Kettle and Fire. The business sells traditional, high-quality broths for health-conscious food fans, and was voted one of the best Paleo brands by healthline.com. They wanted to deepen their brand reputation on social media but required help to do this. The company wanted to work with influencer marketing strategies to create on-brand content, so they partnered with Trend to deliver a powerful strategy. Influencers created high resolution branded Instagram posts; these were curated for Facebook Ads to gain followers. Their results were fantastic; they tested their old posts against the new posts and realised they earned $4 in revenue for every $1 spent on Facebook Ads, with a 61% improvement in Facebook ad performance.
Influencer marketing is a strategy that identifies individuals who have influences on industries or target audiences. Brands also form partnerships with influencers where they expose their audience to the brand’s messages and content. Influencer marketing is a powerful tool for customer acquisition and brand visibility, powering social influence and allowing your products to be visible to potential customers. This WOM is important within the purchase journey and user-generated content creates a buzz. Last year, over 78% of brands engaged influencer marketing within their marketing campaigns (BigCommerce, 2018). Influencers show that your brand is authentic and approved by a cool or famous individual. People will be more interested in seeing your products because someone they admire is interested in them and advertising them. This shows that social proof is powerful, especially when your UGC is created by influencers and the everyday customer.
Influencers are leaders who generate conversations and engagement; they set trends for receptive audiences, positioning them to partner with brands. They can break through traditional advertising and spread brand messages to intended audiences in a real authentic and natural way. Influencers can be viewed as micro-celebrities, “a self-presentation technique in which people view themselves as a public persona to be consumed by others, [they] use strategic intimacy to appeal to followers and regard their audience as fans” (Marwick, Boyd, 2011). Becoming Instafamous means that ordinary people can reach big audiences on Instagram and become known as an influential Instagrammer, a quasi-celebrity. Audiences like authentic influencers who nurture relationships with their community, generating positive engagement, and resonate with audiences through brands.
How Influencers Help Brands
Influencers create content to help promote your brand and are capable of creating engaging content daily and contributing to content marketing efforts. To be successful, your content should be balanced to keep audiences engaged, influencer collaborations should be unique and authentic to your brand. Influencers show that your brand is authentic and approved by a cool or famous individual. People will be more interested in seeing your products because someone they admire is interested in them and advertising them.
Influencers develop their brand over time because it is their personality and needs to be appealing to gain followers. Micro-influencers or micro-celebrities help reach consumers in a less intrusive manner to create relationships between consumers and brands. Micro-influencers help brands specialise content and cater to a specific market and niche segments. Micro-influencers are highly engaged with their social audiences that range from 1,000 to 100,000 followers; they represent any passion with their audience. Macro-influencers have a large following, between 100,000 and 1 million followers and blend reach and impression.
Evolution of Influencers
Social media and influencer marketing Is constantly developing and evolving with different trends and strategies. Many brands are venturing into TikTok, as it becomes the 6th biggest social network and is constantly growing each day. TikTok is very popular among Gen Z, with about half of all users aged between 18 and 24. The emerging trend of dance challenges is growing very popular, and users can share simple and original choreography that other users can imitate.
The creators of #DistanceDance have been booming with content, supported by Proctor & Gamble. They partnered with TikTok sensation Charli D’Amelio to encourage people to stay at home and prevent the spread of Coronavirus during March 2020. With help from ad agency Grey, they launched the #DistanceDance through D’Amelio’s TikTok account and encouraged users to share their own version. Proctor & Gamble also donated to Feeding America for each of the first 3 million videos. The campaign became instantly popular with 8 billion views and 1.7 million iterations with celebrities, influencers and sports teams joining in. This displays how influencers and social media can spread brand awareness and support charities and businesses with viral content. It also creates a trend that can be repeated and used by millions of users on platforms.
WOM is the process of encouraging organic word of mouth discussions around brands and is essentially free advertisement. Brands also use influencers to reinforce marketing campaigns, new products, and support the positioning of existing products. WOM is spread over social media platforms, and the rise of social media marketing helps generate word of mouth. Shared content has a higher value when it comes from someone you know and trust. Therefore, here at Free4you we understand that social media is a powerful platform to drive awareness and engagement. This is combined with word of mouth to engage and influence new customers, helping share experiences of brands and products.