The Power and Strategy of Word of Mouth Marketing in the Digital Age

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The Power and Strategy of Word of Mouth Marketing in the Digital Age

By Samantha Brooks on 26 August, 2016

In the marketing game, it’s drilled into you that nothing is more powerful than word of mouth. When you think about it, it’s fairly obvious really; as a consumer who are you going to believe – the salesman or the customer? The customer has no incentive to embellish, influence or guide you to a conclusion. They call it as they see it. So it comes as no surprise that word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is repeatedly found to be the most powerful form of advertising. In one Nielsen survey for example, 92% of consumers said that they trust the recommendations of friends and family above all other forms of advertising.

Most marketers are well aware of this fact, but while they look to capitalise on it (according to theWord of Mouth Marketing Association, 82% of marketers look to actively use WOMM), they don’t feel super confident in doing so (only 6% believed they had mastered the art).

The reason is that, in this digital age, the definition of WOMM has become rather hazy. Things have changed a lot since ‘word of mouth’ quite literally meant words coming out of a person’s mouth at the hairdressers or over a coffee. With the modern affordances of social media, people are constantly in contact with each other, and broadcasting their lives out into the ether. They ‘like’ and ‘share’ brands’ posts. They tag their friends in brands’ Instagram photos. With so many ways and means to communicate, what constitutes ‘word of mouth’ anymore?

Such million dollar questions have an annoying tendency to go unanswered. The problem is that the marketing landscape is changing so quickly that no one truly knows exactly what modern day word of mouth is, and are consequently often found wondering when it comes to using it. However, inspiration can be taken from a few trailblazers that have been willing to throw themselves out into the unknown.

The Uber WOMM Strategy

Uber, the rideshare app that has the taxi industry tossing and turning at night, believes that modern day word of mouth isn’t restricted to those that you know and trust. They believe that WOMM is almost as effective coming from a stranger as it is coming from a loved one. The numbers back Uber’s claims up, with 68% of people valuing consumer opinions online, almost as much as the 84% who value recommendations from people they know.

This being the case, Uber’s WOMM strategy is centred on generating the maximum amount of consumer opinions. After every Uber ride, you’re almost obliged to give feedback on the experience. Uber understands that this could become annoying to regular users, however, and offers a simple 5-star rating system for feedback, with the option to expand upon the rating if you choose to do so. The modus operandi of Uber is to first create the sort of experience that its users want to talk about, and then giving them the maximum amount of opportunity to do so.

This openness is not only great for WOMM, but it allows Uber to constantly improve, by working to address issues that are raised in the reviews.

The Tesla WOMM Strategy

The brilliance of Tesla isn’t limited to its ground-breaking automotive products. Unbelievably, the company that has reinvented the (car) wheel has a marketing budget, it claims, of exactly zero dollars. But how?

Tesla’s confidence in their product is the central to their marketing attitude. Much like Uber, their focus is on creating something that people will want to talk about. And in their case, the fact that their marketing budget is $0 is marketing material in and of itself. I’m talking about it right now, for goodness sake.

By declaring that they’re not looking to spend any money on marketing, Tesla is essentially telling the world that every cent that they make is spent on making the best possible product they can. They are the gold standard in earned advertising – their products are so cutting edge that the mere mention of them gets online fan communities, and the media at large, talking. It’s WOMM brilliance.

Although this strategy is an incredibly risky one (Tesla almost went bankrupt twice), it has now become somewhat of a self-fulfilling marketing prophecy.

The WOMM Strategy have a huge in-built advantage when it comes to word of mouth marketing. Their business is built on people telling their own personal stories, making the discoveries made on the site the perfect fodder for social media. have acknowledged that, and worked to make the sharing of family discoveries as simple as possible. They are market leaders in developing tools that allow their customers to engage in WOMM, with an incredible amount of ‘share’ options on every page. While they market using a mix of paid and unpaid advertising, they know that the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the word of mouth option make it by far the best strategy.

This focus on WOMM has also helped the company better understand and act on negative feedback. They know the negative effect that a client’s bad experience can have on their brand, and have put a raft of measures in place to ensure that any issues are resolved before they are aired publicly. As sees it, a solid commitment to customer service is just as important a WOMM strategy as making their content shareable.

What Will Word of Mouth Marketing Do for You?

So what is word of mouth marketing in the digital age? I suppose it could be considered as any communication between two people that leaves an impression about a brand. Yet, whatever the perceived definition, there’s no denying its power. While the ways and means of its delivery will continue to morph and mutate over time, its importance will never diminish.

Large companies may have the resources to be more liberal, flexible, and confident when it comes to their word of mouth strategies, but their methods are ripe for inspiration. They often learn the hard lessons so that you don’t have to.

So take the time to consider how word of mouth marketing may best work for you. Word of mouth is a vital cog in your marketing machine. It’s up to you to apply the grease.

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