WOM. Everyone Wants It – How Do You Get It?

Word of mouth. Viral activity. Earned media. Consumer activation. Buzz. Whatever you call it – it is the key to mobilizing your campaigns and making your budgets work harder. Every marketer wants it, but few find it in any scale. I asked our agency teams across disciplines to think about some tips to effectively create consumer buzz and incite sharing. Not surprisingly, I got back a list with a lot of overlap. It turns out, again – not surprisingly – that the answer is simple but incredibly difficult to execute.

That deceptive simplicity is what goads unwary marketers to make word of mouth (WOM) a goal and to pin their campaign performance on something that is at least 90 percent out of their control. There are limits to how many viral hits can grab the public conscious at any given time and news events, competitor activity, non-competitor activity, and sheer random luck all play a large part in your success.

So what can you do to increase your chances of consumer uptake and sharing of your marketing message?

  1. Don’t make it a marketing message. Ain’t nothin’ interesting about that. It’s really as simple (and as difficult) as creating an experience worth sharing.
  2. Make it new, surprising, or unexpected. People don’t share old news or old approaches. Novelty will make the difference between a consumer sharing an experience or not. The funny videos that get wide distribution spread not only because they tap into emotions and make us laugh but also because they usually offer something new and surprising.
  3. Make it easy. Build in a variety of sharing mechanisms to reduce any friction in your consumers’ sharing. A simple one-click post or comment opportunity will go a long way to motivating action.
  4. Integrate. Work on online and offline initiatives together to reach more users across channels and platforms.
  5. Spend money. Even supposedly free tactics need a launching pad to create visibility. A quick, targeted campaign that reaches the talkers will help to start that snowball rolling.
  6. Give something of value. Using smart incentives like free samples, coupons, or a chance to win something helps immeasurably to spread the news. Be sure to connect the incentive to your messaging so it makes sense and reaches the right audiences with relevant messaging. Don’t discount less tangible values like entertainment value, knowledge value, shock value, etc.
  7. Know your audience. Have a clear picture of who you are trying to reach, and develop relevant content specifically to appeal to them. Actively resist the attempts to generalize or broaden your approach because if you try to be something for everyone you will be nothing for all. Set up your performance metrics to reinforce this approach and measure the audiences that matter to you, not the whole planet.
  8. Produce content people want to be associated with. Politics, religion, and other controversial topics are too risky for brands, but they reach people in both the heart and gut, so are often shared. Creating a safer but emotionally charged and relevant content strategy will accelerate your WOM results. Consider a non-cynical, non-self serving, philanthropic approach to make users feel part of something and positive about helping you spread the word. Passionate voices stand out in the crowd and emotion is a great motivator to action.
  9. Differentiate between the consumers you want to reach and prioritize your outreach. There are many different kinds of consumers, including active promoters who share often and easily use website reviews, posts, and all means at their disposal to share both good experiences and bad. A good experience between these active promoters and your brand will motivate positive buzz that resonates as authentic. At the next level are also influencer consumers who need a truly extraordinary experience to motivate them to share. With good planning you can create situational opportunities that may increase their propensity to share.
  10. Show appreciation to your customers, to your workers, and to others doing good work. That by itself is often surprising. It’s great (and very effective) to show the human side of a brand or corporation.
  11. They say timing is everything. Use what you know about the relevant audience’s behaviors to stand out in the least cluttered environments and times you can find.
  12. Use different kinds of content. Test messaging and channels but also test video vs. images vs. storytelling to ascertain what your particular audience will respond to best.
  13. Have a post-launch strategy ready. Part of the fun of sharing is to be the first within your connections to find that gem, but that first-level sharing has natural limits. Be ready with other reasons and methods for later sharers to feel empowered so they won’t feel late to the party and won’t hesitate to share. Great social community management is key here.

The bar is constantly being raised. With everyone intent on creating new and surprising content, the general populace is getting harder to surprise. How many items will the average consumer (or even active promoters) share in a given day, week, or month before their friends, family, and colleagues implore them to stop? Be on the lookout for emotional, relevant, and surprising content that you can create or leverage appropriately to tap into our human desire to share, but don’t count on it to meet your marketing goals.

What tactics have resulted in WOM for you?

Speech Bubbles image on home page via Shutterstock.

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