Everybody Talks… Everybody Talks… Everybody Talks So Much!

ImageThe average American organically mentions brands 90 times in their offline and online conversations each week. Yes, 90 times! Here are a few other shocking numbers:

  • More than three billion brand mentions occur in nearly 4.5 billion conversations, every day in the United States.
  • More than 65 percent of the U.S. economy is driven by Word of Mouth.
  • Personal recommendations are the #1 driver of consumer purchase decisions across multiple product categories.

This provides a lot of opportunities for brands to be publically praised (or shamed) among circles of consumers.

So what is this organic method of sharing brand information, recommendations, suggestions, feedback etc? Image

Word of Mouth… and, it’s here to stay.

Word of Mouth or WOM, is the most influential element driving purchase decisions today and social media is helping it to continue growing. Like with the concept of “social proof,” consumers often (and sometimes even unknowingly) look to their social circles for product suggestions, and reviews. Humans trust the suggestions of other humans.

By harnessing customer experiences, brands can use WOM as a way to propel engagement, increase awareness and drive purchases. It’s important to note that WOM is different than Word of Mouth Marketing or WOMM. While the two sound the same, WOM is often the outcome of WOMM. WOMM is the conversation starter driven by the brand. WOM is the actual conversations had by consumers about brands, products and companies. If done well, the two can be used in tandem can build buzz. In order to make WOM work for any brand, here are a few tips that marketers must remember:

  • Consumers want to be friends with brands. The golden ticket is building a real relationship between the consumer and the brand. It’s this personal connection that will lead to true WOM.
  • Transparency = Trust.
  • Friends and family are key motivators for purchase decisions, even more than experts.
  • Off-line engagement through events and product trials can be just as effective as online engagement. WOM happens in offline and online conversations – there is power and value in both.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. By listening to ongoing conversations, posts and news media about the brand and brand-related topics, marketers can be more effective in integrating their brand, company or product into relevant and meaningful conversations.
  • Build the WOM tactic into every singly marketing strategy from advertising to digital to PR – get people talking.
  • Utilize influencers to tell epic stories. Consumer storytellers will advocate for a brand in a better way than any advertisement.
  • Praise fans and followers who share their negative thoughts. Constructive feedback can help a company to fix a problem, better understand a consumer perspective or in the end, build an even better product.
  • Engage employees! A workforce that shares a sense of purpose can lead engagement. Some of the most successful brands have involved employees in helping to forward the brand message. People who love what they do tend to speak highly about the companies they work for.

Need more tips? WordofMouth.org provides an ongoing list of how to positively use WOM. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is also a great resource in terms of learning more about WOM and WOMM. This inforgraphic from WOMMA further illustrates the importance of WOM.

ImageAs the industry continues to evolve, WOM will continue to grow… giving companies and brands even more opportunities to leverage all that talking that everybody does, and turn it into a competitive advantage.

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Storytelling to Build Social Proof

Even after tragic loss, it is possible to find hope. Raising more than $1.2 million dollars, charity: water continues to inspire individuals to act even years after Rachel started her initial campaign.

A true leader in using stunning visual storytelling to engage consumers, charity: water’s remarkable success in social advocacy and online fundraising is largely built through stunning multimedia. With more than 1.3 million Twitter followers, and more than 210,000 Facebook likes, charity: water has truly mastered the art of getting people to form personal connections with their brand. And, by harnessing storytelling through social media – they have turned followers into activists.

The brand has built a high level of “social proof.”

What is social proof exactly?

Put simply, social proof is the positive influence created when people find out others are doing something – and now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that same something.

This third-party validation can be a very powerful motivator. As consumers, the psychology of persuasion influences every day choices, from where to eat, to what clothes to wear, purchases to make, and causes to be part of. While the concept of social proof isn’t new, this style of impact has huge potential to grow virally given the way that consumers interact today on social media. According to recent research 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends.

ImageTech Crunch offers that there are five different types of social proof. These range from Expert and Celebrity, which leverage the approval of these individuals to build digital influence to Wisdom of the Crowds, which highlights the popularity or large numbers of users who like a product, service or brand. While both of the above work in some instances, by and large, the most coveted type of social proof is the Wisdom of Friends, because every marketer knows that referrals from friends are the way that consumers now make choices. Friendsreferred by friends ultimately make better customers, activists and givers – hands down.

One of the best ways to build social proof is by leveraging the power of personal stories. Real stories resonate with people and can catch their interest or engage their emotions. Stories are persuasive and more trusted by consumers than statistics, because they are able to transport consumers into the situation – engaging them and making them want to share… and then share again and again. This makes sense on many levels given that storytelling is one of the oldest and most effective forms of communicating.

charity: water uses content to align people with thousands of other people. Their stories and photos are hyper-localized, deeply connecting consumers to the impact they are helping to make. So deeply, that they then encourage others to participate in making impact too – Momentum builds and one by one consumers join the cause because of other friends who are engaged, thus building a dedicated network of brand advocates… or for charity: water, activists and donors.

Social proof IS the new marketing.

Any brand can engage social proof by being candid, authentic and letting testimonials speak for themselves. Through the sharing of compelling stories, brands can become equal partners, rather than corporate entities. It’s no longer enough to rely on pushed messages or advertising.

Through a continued commitment to storytelling via highly sharable digital content, charity: water has built a brand that incites the kind of loyalty, excitement, and inspiration most companies dream of.

It’s the stuff of fairy tales!