In the first installment of the A-to-Z WOM series, we took a brief look at the history of word of mouth (WOM) and covered why WOM can be such a powerful consumer motivator. In part 2, we’ll focus on how the proliferation of social media adoption has transformed the way in which we share information, and how you, savvy marketer, can harness this powerful trend in service of your company’s objectives for 2013.
So, why is social so important for businesses? At risk of restating the obvious, social media is where your customers and future customers are spending their time online. According to Nielsen, consumers continue to spend more time on social networks than on any other category of site. In 2012, social accounted for 20% of total time online via PC, and 30% of total time online via mobile. From the blog you’re reading right now to forums, wikis, photo/video publishing, and of course, social networks – social can take many forms and is available across many mediums – virtually at consumers’ fingertips 24/7. And, since anything that facilitates the creation and sharing of content online can be considered social, marketers’ have a real opportunity to tap into and influence consumers and their social graphs.
The New Purchase Path
In addition to being the #1 place consumers are spending their precious hours, social has fundamentally changed the consumer decision process and purchase path. Today, consumers have access to an exponentially growing number of opinions, tastes, and preferences via social connections. The days of strictly controlled brand messaging are long gone and without a clearly defined purchase path, word of mouth marketing (WOMM) has become more critical than ever. WOM is now so important, in fact, that 80% of purchase cycles (B2C and B2B) involve some form of WOM recommendation, according to Forrester.
As marketers, we know that it’s virtually impossible to duplicate the level of credibility that comes with a personal endorsement from a friend. As such, we must take steps to encourage positive sentiment amongst brand fans and encourage them to help direct friends and connections along the purchase path for us. Social offers a variety of new opportunities to tap into our existing customer base to identify social advocates and help drive qualified new sales through word of mouth advocates.
Dropbox and the Power of The Ask
What’s the quickest way to get brand advocates to spread the word? Just ask. Especially when paired with a compelling incentive, your advocates are already passionate about your brand and will readily spread the word with their networks via social channels. Tapping into your customer network is the easiest way to gain credible endorsements and jumpstart a network effect of sharing.
Take for example Dropbox, the beloved cloud storage service that has collectively saved us billions of gigs of hard drive space since 2007. According to the company’s founder, Dropbox quickly came to the realization that traditional online advertising methods were too costly and not going to scale for the company’s growth goals. In coming to this realization, it was determined that WOMM would be the best option to get the word out. Simplified, the program was as follows:
Using a time-tested referral WOMM strategy, Dropbox was able to achieve incredible results in a relatively short period of time. The beauty of referral marketing is that it can be applied to any business, whether your goal is to drive awareness, sign-ups, sales, or all of the above. Give your customers a compelling offer, ask them to start spreading the word, and odds are you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing so sooner.
3 Tenets of a Successful Social WOM Program
Though Dropbox is a great current example, they were far from the first to realize success with referral marketing tactics, nor will they be the last. Referral marketing has stood the test of time and it just so happens that the rise of social media has helped supercharge the tactic in recent years. Keep in mind the following 3 tenets of a successful social referral program when developing your own:
The Offer: What is the incentive for your advocates to spread the word about your brand? Whether it’s a $25 credit, Free 2-day Shipping for a few months, or free storage in the case of Dropbox, make the benefits of sharing painstakingly clear. Promotion of the program can take many forms – a banner on your site, a Facebook tab, an email campaign – but be sure to promote your program where your customers will be most likely to see it and make it easy for them to understand and get started.
The Experience: Both for your advocates and their subsequently referred friends, the experience is half the battle. For advocates make sharing effortless with optimized emails (and the option to edit content to their liking) and the ability for one-click sharing on social networks. For referred friends, make sure the landing page is personalized and reinforces your offer and the incentive that awaits them beyond conversion. Make it easy for new converts to share, in turn, creating a domino effect and introducing your offer to a whole new network of connections. Also, it’s important to keep the program top of mind by re-marketing and promoting to the constantly increasing advocate base.
The Analytics: Arguably the most important element, this applies to both your consumer-facing application and your own behind-the-scenes measurement tools. For consumers, make it easy to see how many referrals they’ve sent to date, via which channels, and where their sharing has been most effective in earning them incentives. This will inspire more sharing and deeper engagement in the program. Behind-the-scenes, it’s important to have a clear view into your biggest advocates – who’s been most engaged in programs to date and the type of ROI they are driving for your brand.
In the next installment, we’ll go deep on a handful of successful referral marketing programs, using a variety of tactics. In the meantime, I invite you to consider how a social WOM program could work for your brand and ask questions or share some of the tactics that your company’s already employed in the comments.