We are inundated by the supposed strengths of social networks and the emergence of web2.0 technologies that facilitate participatory and 2way conversations. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogservices, and the like have all emerged as leaders in the area of social media. Windows Live is not too far off – and Google’s services (e.g., Youtube) in themselves have social-media characteristics.
But there is one thing that we are missing in all these discussions: Social networks have always been around. It is just that digital technology has emphasized its importance and has forced marketers and planners such as ourselves to acknowledge its significance.
We’ve also tried to measure “Word of Mouth” as if it were something similar to TV, radio, press, digital, and advertising in general. But there is one key difference: WOM is the voice of the consumer. It is a response that is elicited from their holistic experiences of the brand – from a brand’s advertising messages, marketing communications, and up to its delivery of its supposed promise.
True, it is in itself a medium: If I tell you that Coke is the best soft-drink in the world and that I cannot live without a Coke (aside: I can J), I have turned myself into a medium.
But Coke can’t ‘control’ me – as it can control its advertising on TV, presses, and even digital media. The decision to speak of Coke – positively or negatively – resides with me, the consumer.
My 2cents’: Social media facilitates word-of-mouth. And so do other media that in aggregate, create a differentiated brand experience. You can – perhaps – plan, control, manage, measure and deploy social media plans. But WOM is something else.
As one of my colleagues once mentioned: “WOM is a result…”
I would add that it is an interesting, important, and critical medium/channel – but we still have a lot to learn about it. But the most critical thing to keep in mind is: It is the consumers’ voice, not ours. And hence, we do not own it.