_____ refers to Online Word-of-Mouth Marketing.

In today’s world, the way we get information is constantly evolving. While most of us still turn to traditional print and television media, there are countless other platforms, such as blogs and online forums, that allow individuals to spread news and opinions to audiences who wouldn’t normally encounter them.

Word of mouth remains one of the most effective and influential marketing tools in existence. However, the way we consume and derive value from information has changed. Today, consumers are more likely to learn about a brand or product from a personal experience rather than from a marketing campaign or an ad.

To remain effective in this ever-evolving marketing landscape, marketers must understand how to leverage online word-of-mouth marketing (OWOM) into a profitable strategy.

What is online word-of mouth marketing (OWOM)?

“Word of mouth” is defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) as “the communication of information, ideas, and/or opinions, among individuals, through oral speech or written prose.”

And, as previously mentioned, the way we get information and the platforms through which we retrieve it have changed. With social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as content curation websites such as Medium and Instagram, consumers can now easily learn about products and services from people they know and trust. In a world full of uncertainty, this type of marketing provides relative safety and comfort in that it puts information in the hands of consumers, allowing them to make educated decisions about products and services.

Why is Word of Mouth Marketing Important?

In an effort to understand why we should care about online word-of-mouth marketing and to identify the growing trends and tactics that marketers can use to benefit their businesses, we interviewed Jason Alba, CEO of Alba Marketing.

“Traditional forms of marketing, such as radio ads and billboards, are falling victim to technologies designed to circumvent them. Online word-of-mouth marketing is one of the few remaining bastions of old-fashioned marketing, where a brand can literally shout out a product and attract interested audiences without the need for a massive marketing budget,” said Alba.

Alba went on to explain that marketers should care about online word-of-mouth marketing because it drives profitable traffic and allows them to measure the success of their campaigns. Furthermore, the cost per acquisition for quality customers through online word-of-mouth marketing is significantly less than that of traditional forms of marketing. In fact, according to HubSpot Blogs research,

the CPA for acquiring a lead through a brand channel (i.e., a website or social media account) is $3.78, compared to $4.95 for a display ad and $16.38 for a TV commercial. Additionally, the lifetime value of a customer who has engaged with a brand channel is $121.22, compared to $138.44 for a customer who has interacted with an ad and $275.22 for a customer who has purchased a product from a retail store.

What are the Main Tasks of an Online Word-of-Mouth Marketing (OWOM) Campaign?

To answer this question, we examined a number of SEO and digital marketing campaigns conducted by HubSpot Blogs. Across eight different cases, we identified the following tasks:

1. Create compelling content.

There are many platforms for blogging, such as Medium, WordPress, and Google Docs, to name just a few. These platforms offer marketers the opportunity to leverage their own content, such as website articles, into a steady stream of educational material that can be shared on social media channels and content curation websites to drive traffic to their sites. By regularly sharing content that’s relevant to your target audience, you can start to build a relationship with them and earn their trust, which in turn, will make them more receptive to your advice and suggestions about products and services.

2. Identify and engage with key influencers.

In the era of big data and content analytics, marketers can easily discover the influencers (i.e., people who have a large social media following) who speak passionately about their area of expertise and who can influence an audience member’s decision to purchase a product or service.

Through a combination of inbound marketing (focused on customer experience and marketing automation) and paid marketing (traditional advertising and social media marketing), marketers can develop personas and case studies to gain deeper insight into how existing customers behave and how they want to be approached by marketers. With this information, marketers can then identify and engage with the right people to drive more leads and grow a business. In the HubSpot Blogs research mentioned previously, we identified the following top-tier influencers in digital marketing:

  • Martha Meade
  • Vicky Wolf
  • Kimberly Ballantyne
  • Pamela Geller
  • Roxanne Brown
  • Heather Morris
  • Tanya Talbot

3. Create compelling calls to action.

With the exception of product reviews, which tend to be more long-form writing that encourages a reader to browse a website’s content or watch a video’s entire runtime, most content creators on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, publish shorter pieces, often less than 500 words in length. In these situations, the call to action, which is typically a button, link, or promise of more information, tends to appear in the form of a question:

What will you do next?

  • Click here to continue reading
  • Visit website
  • Visit product’s Facebook page

This kind of material tends to be more attractive to online audiences because it offers them easy gratification, making it ideal for content creators looking to grow their influence.

4. Measure the success of your campaign.

After you’ve launched an online word-of-mouth marketing campaign and begun to drive traffic to your website, you can track the success of your efforts in a number of ways. First, you can use brand monitoring tools, such as Google Analytics, to identify demographics and behaviors associated with your website traffic. From here, you can determine the effectiveness of your campaign and adjust your strategy as needed, to meet your goals.

How do I get started with online word-of-mouth marketing?

With this information in mind, let’s take a quick look at how to get started with online word-of-mouth marketing. First, identify your target audience.

This is the group of people who you believe will benefit most from your product or service. To create an engaging online community, you should look to engage with your audience through content that relates to their world. For instance, if you are selling health and wellness products, you might want to write blog posts about topics such as nutrition and fitness. These posts will relate to your target audience because they are interested in consuming food that’s good for their bodies and they will also value your advice on ways to improve their fitness routines.

Once you’ve defined your target audience, you can apply a marketing funnel, such as the one shown in the figure below, to organize your strategy. Starting with lead generation through content and culminating in a conversion event, such as a product purchase or a series of website visits, allows you to measure the overall success of your campaign. As you identify the main tasks of your online word-of-mouth marketing strategy, you’ll no doubt come up with other ideas of how you can put this plan into practice. And, as a marketer, that’s what matters.

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Concluding Remarks: Why Should Marketers Care About Online Word-Of-Mouth Marketing?

The world of marketing is constantly evolving. Whereas most marketers focus on driving as much traffic as possible to a website through paid ads and paid promotions on social media platforms, those working in online word-of-mouth marketing focus on creating compelling content, engaging with key influencers, and urging those who discover your content to do something. A few clicks or taps on a smartphone can take an interested person from completely unaware of a product to an action mode, eager to provide that product or service with the promise of an easy solution.