Networked Narratives: Understanding Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Online Communities

What comes to your mind when you think about word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM)? Maybe you’re thinking about influential people talking about a product or service and the impact it has on the people who listen. Maybe you think about marketing professionals encouraging consumers to try a new product via social media.

WOMM is an effective type of marketing because the information being passed along is often complimentary or motivating the recipient to action. In other words, the person receiving the information feels as though they’ve gained some valuable insight, which makes them more receptive to the message.

WOMM is also known as talk-of-mouth marketing or social media marketing because so much of the activity surrounding word of mouth happens online. In fact, today’s consumers prefer to get information online rather than from traditional marketing channels like billboards, radio ads, or magazine spreads. However, even though social media makes talking about a product easier than ever, understanding the nuances of WOMM can still be tricky.

The Role Of Social Media In Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth marketing has always been around, but in today’s world, it is more accessible and effective than ever before. Thanks to the rise of social media and the internet, consumers have always had the opportunity to hear about new products and services from people who are known to be trustworthy and have valuable knowledge about the topic at hand. Through this platform, individuals can engage with other users in online communities to share their opinions and experiences with the rest of the audience.

Because social media plays such an important role in WOMM, marketers should have a solid understanding of how to use these tools to grow their business. To help guide you, let’s explore the various ways social media can be used in word-of-mouth marketing.

1. Product Awareness And Image Creativity

One of the primary objectives of marketers in today’s digital world is to increase the general awareness about a product or service. With social media, creating branded content (e.g., blogs, websites, and podcast) to engage with an audience is much more cost-effective than traditional marketing channels. Creating content that is both engaging and informative helps brands establish themselves as industry leaders rather than just corporate competitors.

Additionally, by increasing product awareness, brands can also encourage consumers to try a product or service and provide them with information about the matter. For example, a company can create a blog post about a new smartphone that encourages users to try out the product by providing them with information about the phone’s features. With this example, the company is effectively using blogs to disseminate information and create awareness about the new smartphone.

Not only does blogging provide a free platform for brands to engage with consumers, but it also allows them to experiment with different content strategies to see what works best for their particular brand. Ultimately, creating unique content can help establish a brand’s authority in a relatively short amount of time.

2. Customer-Centered Communication

In almost every industry, customers are regarded as important individuals or groups of individuals with special needs and expectations. However, it is extremely important for marketers to understand that customers are individuals, not a homogeneous group. What this means is that every customer has a different perspective and may expect something different from a brand or company. This is also referred to as customer-centered marketing or communications.

To gain a better understanding as to how marketers can effectively communicate with customers, let’s examine four common types of customer interactions:

  • Product knowledge: In a world of information abundance, customers expect to find complete and detailed information about products and services without having to go through a laborious research process. For example, if a company is marketing a new smartphone and customers expect to find detailed information about the device’s features, they will most likely become frustrated if they have to go through a complex research process to learn about the phone’s capabilities. Additionally, if a customer finds irrelevant, confusing, or incomplete information about a product, it can lead them to seek out more detailed information through alternative channels (e.g., reviews, FAQs, or forums). If a company’s goal is to build customer trust and confidence, product knowledge interactions are some of the most effective ways to do so.
  • Problem solving: Since customers are often uncertain about a product or service, they look to companies for guidance and assistance when they encounter problems with a product or service. When a customer has a problem, it is often because they don’t know how to resolve it or are unsure of what to do. In these situations, offering help and guidance is an excellent way to build trust and confidence while also enhancing a company’s reputation for providing superior customer care. This is why, when a customer has a problem, they will usually turn to the company’s support team first before searching for an answer on their own. In the smartphone example above, the company’s support team can help the customer figure out why they’re having problems with the device (e.g., poor reception or network coverage). By taking the time to listen and understand the customer’s problem, support staff can provide them with the information they need to take action and solve the issue. Additionally, if a company offers a money-back guarantee, they can also encourage customers to try their product by providing them with another form of compensation.
  • Negotiation: In today’s world, customers usually have more power than ever before, especially in large organizations where there may be several purchasing decisions to be made.
  • Consultation: Because customers are often uncertain about a product or service, they will sometimes look to companies for advice and help when they need to make a decision. During this process, the company can also gain valuable insight into the types of issues that may arise and the types of customers that they are likely to serve. Additionally, by involving customers in the decision-making process, companies can also build trust and confidence while gaining additional support in the process.

As you can see, these four types of customer interactions provide a brand or company with an excellent opportunity to communicate with customers and develop a closer bond. Thanks to social media and the internet, brands can gain access to a much larger audience and provide them with content that is both informative and engaging. With this approach, companies can encourage customers to interact with them and provide them with valuable information about products and services, which ultimately leads to greater brand loyalty and customer goodwill.

To keep things simple, let’s define a brand’s digital transformation as the process of adapting a business to function efficiently and prosper in the digital world. Thanks to the numerous opportunities that social media provides, brands can gain a significant amount of insight into how to achieve this.