I grew up in Iowa. The Iowa Caucuses are a time of pride, excitement and great visibility for the state, and every year I find myself exponentially more anticipatory about them. This year I realized that part of my growing excitement has to do with the fact that I can follow, in real time, what people are saying about the candidates - and it's unsolicited, candid and completely relevant. There is something thrilling about having the ability to put my finger on the pulse of the people of Iowa (the faint pulse, lately!), and it's all thanks to social media, word of mouth and the power of influencers. I can barely wait for November! Here's an interesting blog about the correlation between Twitter and the candidates' success (or lack thereof) in Iowa this week.
Theresa J. Trevor
"The most influential element driving purchases today is word of mouth," this WOMMA infographic emphasizes. An excellent tribute to the sheer power of this marketing channel.
MarketingProfs.com shares a three-step process for targeting your influencers:
1) Listen to your Market
2) Identify the most important voices
uRefer is already doing exactly that and we can show you how to do it too.
BLOGS POWER WORD OF MOUTH
Ad Age came out with the “Power 150” – the top 150 most influential, widest reaching blogs. According to Blogging for Networking, “Almost every post shared on leading social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, and many others were taken from a blog. Blogs have power. Time and time again we are seeing that marketing lies in the hands of the people now. [Blogs] can help elect presidents and take down attorney generals while simultaneously celebrating the minutiae of our everyday obsessions. (www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/mar/09/blogs) This is huge. Every company out there must be aware of how important word of mouth marketing is, then, right?
Wrong. Here’s a recent example - I interviewed with a company earlier this year, to serve as their marketing and PR writer. This was a small business that manufactured parts for hospitals, did quite well financially, and enjoyed a reputable, position within their community. I interviewed with the company three times before I was offered the position. In the final interview, I asked the President about their marketing efforts to date. I began to talk about how important social media is today, and the mention of Twitter and blogging came up. This man said to me, “Those things are going the way of the dinosaur; I’d rather concentrate on traditional modes of marketing.” I debated the personal excitement I’d experience after proving to this man that marketing had entered a new world – a new millennium with infinite social and digital possibility, versus the disappointment of fighting him on allocation of marketing dollars and resources. In the end, I did not take the job. I needed to be somewhere that knew the importance of blogging and Facebook pages and Tweets; somewhere that knew leveraging those was far from a waste of time.
If you are not unlike this company and are unsure of where all this social media stuff is headed, you need to take thirty minutes or an hour and peruse some consumer blogs. It takes but moments to see how much pull a blog can have, and how even small communities of bloggers can become massive communities overnight – just one right word, one flagrant opinion, one glowing review and BAM! Overnight PR for a movie, a brand of lipstick, a vacation spot, a news story, a cat toy. It’s certain – if you don’t pay attention to those who carry word of mouth, you are missing out and will be for the foreseeable future. Social media is not going the way of the dinosaur; and if it is, dinosaurs lived for an estimated 65 million years, so it’s probably still worth your time. And here’s one final reason: Blogpulse‘s statistics show that there are a total of 153,205,413 identified blogs on the internet. In the last 24 hours alone, 47,719 were created and it is growing on a daily basis (September 2009 data by Internet World Stats). Get busy!
WOMEN POWER WORD OF MOUTH
I consider, in my next several blogs, what specific behaviors and trends power Word of Mouth marketing; in other words, what makes it work? What has caused it to proliferate? What will continue to affect the future of WOM? This week, I consider how women power Word of Mouth.
I am a woman. And, I admit that among other things I enjoy doing in my free time, shopping is a big one. I am also fascinated by differences in the way marketers reach out to women versus men when it comes to influencing their purchases. I’m not as fascinated by what women are buying (I was pleasantly surprised that it’s not just shoes and anti-wrinkle cream) as opposed to our male counterparts, but how and why we buy.
There is a lot of good news about women when it comes to our overall effect on consumerism. Women are more and better educated now than at any other time in history. It isn’t surprising then, that we are also making, spending and investing more money than ever before. We are breadwinners, heads of companies, mothers, civic leaders, presidents of organizations. And our roles affect what we spend, how frequently we spend and, of special note to marketers, what motivates us to spend.
After some reading on the topic – and using my preliminary findings and some inductive reasoning, which follows, I conclude that Word of Mouth marketing as well as the proliferation of Advocacy Marketing will be inevitably and irrevocably influenced, as so many great things are, by women.
Women Spend. A lot.
“American women spend about $7 trillion annually... Over half the U.S. GDP.” That’s not all: “Women buy more than half of the new cars in the U.S., AND influence up to 80% of all purchases (http://she-conomy.com/report/facts-on-women).”
Women are Super Smart. And they Talk.
A Harbinger Women and Word of Mouth Study from 2010 found that only 28% of women decide what products or services to buy without looking for some kind of help.
~ 58% of women (18+) share both good and bad experiences online
~ 36% share to help others make smart purchases
~ 27% are asked to share
~ 15% share their expertise
Women aren’t Doing Things like they Used to.
A 2009 study found that women online are spending increasingly less time engaging in traditional media activities such as watching TV, listening to the radio, reading magazines or the newspaper (2009 Women in Social Media Study - BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners)
Women are not only more likely to ask for opinions from friends, family, coworkers and others than men are, but women are also more likely to volunteer both good and bad purchase experiences with this same circle of people (trendsight.com).
Key Point? Women make more money today and they like to talk and share and research brands prior to making a purchase SO…..if you’re a brand, you’d best be focusing a good deal of your WOM marketing efforts on women. WOMEN power word of mouth!
I am interested in hearing what marketers out there have learned about the buying behaviors or habits of women or men insofar as WOM marketing is concerned. Has anything surprised you? Caused you to pause and reconsider? Made you say, “A-ha!” Share with us.
The guardian.co.uk explains: Why winning friends is no longer enough to influence people: "Social media are changing at such a pace that attracting vast numbers of 'likes' and 'followers' are no longer enough to help brands stand out from the crowd. Now it is all about tapping in to people's digital status and identifying key 'influencers'".
Makes sense to us! A like is often nothing more than a click- especially when its used as a gateway for some promised reward. Real value is realized when a brand can identify the people that are willing to advocate for them, especially the ones that are influential within their network, and can drive certain actions from those influencers.
""We are starting to move away from the mad arms race of [increasing] fans on Facebook," says Oli Newton, head of emerging platforms at Starcom Mediavest. According to Newton, the number of followers is becoming less significant than the ability to move an audience in a certain direction. "If you have 5 million Twitter followers, that sounds great, but how many are just seeing you and don't do anything with what you post?" he says."
Basically, it comes down to influencing the influencers. The people that are recognized as experts (to a large community, or amongst thier circle of friends) are in the position to change minds and encourage the purchase of products or services. When you can identify and encourage action amongst this group you can spark sales.
“Advocates like helping people and getting free stuff, but they’re deeply motivated by recognition. In fact, they’re 150% more likely to value being seen as a reliable source of information." - "Social Media Examiner"
What motivates a brand advocate? One might think that it’s FREE STUFF! in the form of points, cash, rewards and similar incentives. But behavioral research is showing that it’s much more than that; brand advocates are motivated by intangible incentives too.
Brand advocates are altruistic and gain personal satisfaction from sharing what they know. When I began to think about this, I was skeptical. Talking or writing about consumer goods and services makes a brand advocate a good Samaritan? Unlikely! I, now I am altruistic! I volunteer at the local crisis center in my free time. I feel like I’m benefiting my community and people in need when I help in this way. I walk out of those doors at the end of my shift and I know for certain that someone’s life was just made a little easier because of my contribution.
Hmmmm. Maybe a brand advocate and I have more in common than I first thought:
1. We both want to help to help others in our free time
2. We both give something in order to make someone’s life a little easier
3. We both feel better about ourselves as a result of giving our time and resources to others
Brand advocates believe (and they’re right!) that they are helping others to make better decisions. They gain satisfaction from contributing knowledge to their friends and their communities – it makes them feel good about themselves. In the same way, helping distribute food or handing out groceries to my community makes me feel like I am making a contribution. Not so different after all!
Brand advocates are a vital part of your community. They can help you to build and sustain a great reputation, they can motivate your friends, employees and partners to try your products and services, and they can partner with you to ultimately build your brand. Just like any service, we all want to help others in order to feel good about ourselves. If you treat your advocates well, I have a suspicion they will feel good about treating you well in return.
What is a brand influencer? There are a couple of different ways to describe the people that tell others about your brand. Our favorite is “Advocate” which describes those who say positive things about the brands they love. Others use “Influencer” which generally addresses anyone who influences the purchasing behavior of the people in their network, positive or negative.
For example: Kevin, a popular blogger who knows everything there is to know about microbrews, is very influential about all things beer. Kevin really likes Bell’s Oberon and frequently writes about it in his blog. Since he is well respected, he has turned hundreds of beer drinkers into Oberon fans.
Therefore, Kevin is both an Influencer and an Advocate for Oberon.
Now, if Kevin was a popular blogger whose posts influenced the beer buying actions of his readers but he never mentioned Oberon. . . he would be an Influencer but not an Advocate. On the otherhand, if Kevin told all of his friends about Oberon, but only a few close friends were listening. . . he would be an Advocate, but not a strong Influencer.
Still with me?
Either way, Kevin is someone that is good for Oberon. In this case, he’s a spreader of positive WOM for the brand and that shouldn’t be ignored.
In a study put out by ICOM “The Influencer: A Consumer Voice With Legs”, they describe why it’s important for a brand to segment and have the ability to target their Influencers:
- “. . . But they don’t speak about just anything. In fact, to tap into influencers a marketer must disregard the traditional thinking that their interests are universal, and that they are apt to talk up any product, from computers to cleansers.”
- “Instead of turning first to specific demographic segments, marketers must track behavior. This approach could reveal an influencer market base that includes not just the assumed demographic, but also an unexpected set of consumers.”
- “Influencers are people who enjoy sharing their brand experience with authority. They love to share information and are more apt to ﬁnd pleasure in convincing others to try new products. Moreover, research shows that influencers are more likely to discuss products they like or don’t like, than the random population.”
You can read ICOM's study summary, or download the full whitepaper Here. Or learn more about how to track and analyze the Advocacy around your brand at the uRefer website: Here
Photo Credit: apples by ollesvensson