Brand advocates and word of mouth marketing

Smart marketers have long understood that word-of-mouth recommendations from consumers—“brand advocacy”—have greater impact on sales than any other source of information.

“I told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on…” This type of word of mouth will always be a marketer’s best friend. Billboards and TV spots are great, but they’ll never beat a mum who’s found the answer to her kid’s sleep, nappy rash or diet issues. And in today’s world, she’ll tell many more than two friends with just one post on her social media channels. And that’s what you call buzz.

Part of the reason why we hang out with the people we hang out with is because we like the same things so it’s no surprise that we want to emulate our friends’ great hair, wardrobe or home décor. How many times has a friend told you about their latest find, leading you to seek out that very same product a few days later? And you’re not alone. We’re all more influenced by our friends, family and co-workers than we’d like to admit.

So what does this mean for brands? Short of divine intervention, it’s not enough to simply hope online tribes will emerge to champion your brand. You must add your voice to the choir. Now we can already hear the plaintiff wail from those of you who aren’t active online and already feel overwhelmed by your design, production, sourcing, sales and PR responsibilities regarding the time it would take to stir up the faithful on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their ilk. But as Erik Qualman wrote in his book Socialnomics, “the ROI of social networking is that your business will still exist in five years.”

In other words, if you want your brand to have everlasting life, you don’t have a choice of whether or not to spend time in online communities. Because even if you’re not interacting with your target customer in a chat room or on Twitter, you can bet your competition is. It’s this involvement that wins converts.

Once you amass your brand ambassadors, don’t forget, they don’t want to be preached at, they want to feel like a part of the team. Create “engagement” with your shoppers and reward them accordingly. Ask your Facebook fans and Twitter followers to vote on the goods they’d like to see in the shop, and ask for their opinion on ways that your products and services could be improved. Finally, don’t underestimate the joy that loyal fans can feel by having their favourite brand follow them on social media. Above all, remember that social media is a two-way conversation.