If you thought word of mouth traveled fast before the domination of the digital age, nothing may ever fully prepare you for the warp speed rumor mill that powers the social media news feeds.
Word of mouth has long served as the marketer’s best friend – It’s fast, it’s free, and most importantly, it’s effective. According to a Nielsen study, nearly 84% of respondents agreed that they trusted the opinions of family and friends more so than any other source. But as social media and digital engagement entered the marketing scene, word of mouth advertising evolved beyond limited social circles and began a new era of sharing information with people formerly unreachable to us, and at a lightning speed rate.
It is this breakneck, widespread reach that has forever changed the course of word of mouth as we once knew it. Take a look at how you can use it to your advantage:
Word of Mouth: An Evolutionary Tale
In the not-so-distant past, we relied largely on family and friends to tell us directly about their good, bad, and sometimes outlandish experiences with restaurants, retailers and service providers.
Depending on how often you spoke to a particular person, it could take days, weeks, or longer before you heard their first-hand accounts, and that’s only if they felt compelled to inform you specifically.
Just over a decade ago, people aired their triumphs and grievances completely within their inner circle of trusted acquaintances, either via a phone call, email or in person.
Word of mouth happened naturally when people felt a true need or desire to vent their frustrations about a bad customer experience or rave about the new restaurant in town.
Fast forward to today’s world, where we can globally display any detail of our lives as soon as it happens with a couple swipes or taps on our mobile phones.
Where we once selectively shared specific stories with specific people, we can now broadcast those stories to a wider scope in far less time. And the more we see people sharing their experiences on social channels, the more we feel the necessity to contribute our own.
Because when in Rome, right?
The Social Media Buzz Behind Your Brand
We’re exposed to a constant day-in-the-life of every follower on our social channels, getting a pseudo play-by-play from close friends, family, and barely-there acquaintances.
These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t at least have a Facebook profile. Social media is everywhere, and it only continues to grow as new platforms enter the market and more users see the value of creating digital connections.
As a business, that type of engagement provides the word of mouth fuel you need to effectively travel beyond your current reach and chart new customer territories.
Each like, comment, and share you initiate not only informs your audience about what’s happening in your company but also invites feedback from every tuned-in source to come crashing into your social profiles at any given moment.
And in many cases, all those likes and shares don’t disappear unless you tell them to. This means all the digital word of mouth chatter surrounding your company, even from ten years ago, may still lurk somewhere in the social media catacombs, waiting for exhumation. Which, if you have been doing social media the right way all along, can provide a stable background of information for potential clients seeking to do business with you.
As a business, you can count on four likely factors that get people buzzing about you on social media:
- Because they love your brand
- Because they hate your brand
- Because someone else asked for their opinion about your brand
- Because their friends are talking about you
General reviews, product information, – any bit of intel that a person would want to know before they do business with you flows freely along the social media sea of posts, pictures, and ad placements.
And regardless if your business engages in the social-sphere, you can bet people are looking for you.
But aside from ubiquity, traceable history, and rocket-speed dissemination, social media’s word of mouth offers an additional perk that traditional person-to-person sharing never did: a direct viewing window into what people are saying.
And depending on how you control the past and present buzz about your business on social channels can fuel or founder your entire brand image.
The Key to Successful Social Chatter
Word of mouth in its simplest form involves the exchange of information about a person’s experience. But add social media to the process and it immeasurably multiplies those interactions.
And, like traditional word of mouth, not all of those interactions will sound off in your favor.
Studies show that bad customer service experiences reach twice as many people as positive ones. And these days, people are all too eager to share their personal stories on their social channels for the rest of the world to view.
Social media’s immediacy and range can work for or against you, so how do you up your chances of keeping a favorable persona? Cement yourself in their conversations.
The biggest advantage that the “new” word of mouth offers is the direct capability to see who is singing your praises or vocalizing complaints. Let customers know you hear them by directly responding to their comments. Offer one-on-one support to position yourself in a positive light. You’ve got a direct portal into your customer’s experience – use it to your advantage.
What The Social Future Holds
The expanded realm of readily available information clearly redefines word of mouth, largely in part because we are influencing more people than we realize at a near instantaneous pace. And it does so for the better, and for the worse. So what can we expect for the future of word of mouth?
Despite the quickened pace of the digital era, it’s fallacy to believe that people will eventually stop talking face-to-face altogether. As long as there is direct human-to-human interaction, word of mouth advertising in its traditional form will always hold its place in marketing.
But social media’s impact on how we exchange information should not be ignored. Simply put, social media sends peer-to-peer exchanges into maximum overdrive to help the word spread quicker and easier than traditional methods could ever allow. And as long as you know how to leverage your social buzz, who wouldn’t want more word of mouth?