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Word-of-Mouth marketing is simply conversations about a brand, product or service. It is an unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product, service.

Think about the last time you talked about a consumer experience with friends, family, or colleagues. Maybe it was how much they’d like a movie that you have just seen, or a restaurant you went to on the weekend or even talking about how much you love your ipad. Word of Mouth is all about sharing stories and experiences as consumers.

McKinsey & Co estimate that two-thirds of the economy is influenced by personal recommendations. So it’s not only telling people about an experience, it’s also about recommendations. Think about the last time you needed to find a new dentist, doctor, or PR agency! You most likely asked people you trusted for their recommendations.

Word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because the endorsement comes from a trusted source rather than a corporate third party. So for marketers and business owners, it’s about earning the right to airtime in your consumers’ conversations, and giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place.

So why should you use social media to build word of mouth for your business?

  • Pre internet days, it was neighbours over the back fence sharing an experience, or mates talking down at the pub. Now with social media, amplify those conversations by about a zillion – because we have consumer connectivity like never before.
  • We still share recommendations and experiences face-to-face, but with the internet and especially with social media we can also share them instantly with thousands, if not millions of people.
  • No longer do consumers rely on advertising or their family to influence their purchasing decisions – they also now look to their online community.
  • Consumers are active participants in your brand, they can now significantly influence the health and success of your brand and business.
  • They now have the power to talk to each other about brands quickly, frequently, easily and on a local and global scale.
  • This means there is a huge opportunity for brands and businesses to harness people to stimulate word of mouth about their products and services.
  • How can you spread the word about your business using Social Media and Word of Mouth?

    The first place to start may sound simple, but you need to have a good product or service. You won’t get people to recommend you or have positive conversations if you don’t. Secondly – if you haven’t started using social media – start today! You need to be in the conversation and build a following. Once you have those two things you can start with you strategy.

    Make it easy for people to talk about you

    And to share your material. Don’t aim to make a video that will go viral – if you are using social media tools you already have great viral content, it’s just not viral yet.  Use sharing tools such AddThis, ShareThis, Tell-a-Friend so people can easily share content across channels. These are the social media share buttons you see on the bottom on blog posts so readers can easily Tweet or Facebook it. Make your material easy to copy and forward, and make it discoverable through search engines.

    Give people a reason to talk

    People won’t share your content if it isn’t useful or interesting. So good content, interesting visuals, and relevant information are critical. With a product, give influencers the product to sample. For example, if you are a café, invite key food bloggers to lunch. For a tax agent, give people free tax tips which they can easily share with their colleagues.

    Build your reputation

    Reputation is the new currency – and you want a bucket load of it for word of mouth to work effectively. People do business with people and brands they trust. So start building your online reputation. Start a YouTube channel offering tips. Write guest articles on blogs your customers read. Offer free amazing content on your website or blog. On social networking sites offer helpful information, share interesting links and content and interact with people. Soon, you’ll hear yourself be talked about as “great to work with,” “very authentic” and “recommended.”

    Get influencers talking about you

    In the word-of-mouth industry they recruit ‘influencers’ which are 100’s of people recruited to be ‘your brands well-connected friend’. They have a lot of friends online and offline. And they share their thoughts with their social network. You can do this on a smaller scale by looking to key people within your industry and start connecting with them and sharing your brand information with them – in a genuine way.

    Be where your customers are online

    To join the conversation you need to know where your customer’s conversations are happening. If your customers are heavy users of Twitter, your company should be using Twitter. If your customers on Facebook, then you need to be on Facebook. Word of mouth can only happen if a conversation happens. And the more places where conversations happen, the more opportunities to build buzz around your brand.

    Track online conversations

    Social media enables companies to know the pulse of their customers. You have a direct medium to communicate with customers, act upon their grievances, understand and meet their needs. The more a company knows about the likes, dislikes, etc. of customers, the better they can develop products and services to meet their needs to drive business success. So set up Google news alerts, use Twitter Search, tweetmeme, trendpedia, howsociable or buzz numbers. Track online and offline conversations and listen and respond to both positive and negative conversations

    Now let’s talk tactics

    There are so many online word of mouth tactics you can use to get people talking and recommending your brand. It worth noting that we all can implement online word of mouth tactics, they don’t have to be complicated or expensive.

    Create communities and connect people

    Form or support niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand such as user groups, fan clubs and discussion forums. Create a VIP program and support independent groups that form around your product. Contribute to organisations such as local meetings and other in real life events.

    Contribute to communities

    Rather than starting from scratch with a new community, find out where people are talking and contribute to that community. So find it, sponsor it or host an event or forum. This can be as simple as dedicating time to post discussions and answer question in LinkedIn groups your customers are members of.

    Build relationships with advocates

    Identify people who can be key referrers for your business. Help them refer or talk about your service or product. Introduce yourself and teach them about the benefits of your product. This can be as simple as replying to an advocate on twitter so they are aware of you. For example, a café in Crows Nest where my office is, started following me on twitter, and started interacting with me without any promotion of his café. We just chatted online and I ended up going there for lunch. Now I’m a huge advocate of Montague’s. I tweet when I’m there, we have team lunches there and I’ve lost count how many business meetings I’ve had there.

    Start blogging

    Blogs are a fantastic way to share information. They not only build your reputation and credibility, they also provides create material for content sharing.

    Start interacting with bloggers as are key opinion formers and the gatekeepers to audiences of hundreds and even hundreds of thousands of readers. Invite them to events, attend the meet-up events where they hang out, add comments to their blogs, send them product samples. This is being widely used for food bloggers, mummy bloggers and fashion & beauty bloggers.

    Tips to build buzz

  • Give people a reason to talk about your products and services, and make it easier for that conversation to take place.Social media and word of mouth are both about creating and contributing to conversations about your business and brand. So engage and interact as much as possible.
  • Be authentic – with anything on social media, be authentic and don’t blatantly promote – give something in return.
  • You don’t need to think big – your word of mouth strategy can be as simply as taking 10 minutes a day to answer questions on LinkedIn and reply to people on twitter.
  • IRL is still very powerful. In Real Life I have made some amazing connections and advocates through social media – both personal and professional – and many were created because we met in real life after we met online. So where possible, also organise in real life catch ups and events.
  • What do you think?

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    Catriona Pollard

    Catriona Pollard

    Catriona Pollard is the founder and director of CP Communications, one of the most respected and innovative boutique PR and social media agencies. She is co-founder of Social Media Women, teaches a PR course she designed and writes the popular blog, Public Relations Sydney. Catriona regularly shares her expertise through articles and presentations to assist businesses grow and thrive by effectively using PR and social media. You can find Catriona on: Blog: www.PublicRelationsSydney.com.au Twitter: @catrionapollard Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/PublicRelationsTips Facebook: www.facebook.com/cpcommunications

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