We had gone past the ‘We tell you’ and the ‘Tell us what you think of what we tell you’period. Today, we are in the ‘Tell each other’ days.
The social media model of communication sets the stage for a collaborative creation and sharing of knowledge. Everyone who has access to the Internet is capable of contributing to the pool of information online—be it on science and technology, engineering, mathematics, communication studies, or the arts. Also, the NSM democratizes content and influence. We are no longer under the orders of the media or business organizations. As the tables have now turned, we have gained much power and authority in communication and commerce. Now, it’s the businesses that listen to us. We tell them what we want and do not want. And we tell and influence one another on what to want and not to want.
The Marketing Hybrid
This shift in power and influence has in fact become prevalent in the field of marketing. At present, the most dominant marketing tool which grabs the attention of corporations is the hybrid of the word of mouth and viral marketing. Viral word of mouth. Exactly! It is word of mouth proliferating in the Web. It’s the online sharing of opinions about a product or service among consumers and brand advocates.
Dave Balter, founder and president of BzzAgent, a word of mouth marketing and research firm located in Boston described word of mouth as the holy grail of marketers, CEOs and entrepreneurs. It is considered the most powerful medium in the planet as itdictates what product succeeds and what fails. Balter enumerated several features of the word of mouth:
1. Mutual dialogue
3. Pass-along effect
4. Knowledge diffusion
The triple EXs of the viral word of mouth
These characteristics may be translated to the Triple EXs of the word of mouth-viral marketing hybrid.
Viral word of mouth is as natural as storytelling. It’s how consumers make sense of their own product or service experiences and share these stories through the social media. The stories can only be driven by satisfaction from a full experience of the brand. Every effective word of mouth can only start with an honest and real consumer experience. Nothing else.
When a full experience of the product or service has been handed to consumers, the next thing they could do is to talk about these stories. See how they start conversations through their blogs, SNS, through online fora and conferences. Let them communicate the stories online, engage other brand fans and draw in potential consumers.
Thanks to the Internet, honest stories of satisfied consumers and conversations on real brand experience spread exponentially. It’s viral. Whether it’s an email, a twit, a status message or a video, it’s 10x faster.
The EXponential EXchange of EXperience in a viral word of mouth even functions to strengthen the power of consumers and Web users. It is no longer the publishers or media owners who determine what’s latest and important. It is the people—the audience and consumers—who tell what is worth talking about and what is worth sharing.
The agenda setting power of the media seems not at all applicable and effective in the Internet Age. The communication process has been transformed into a big collaborative system of ideas, information and opinions. The audience is no longer seen as passive receivers of messages. They are now co-creators of content and co- proprietors of influence and power. They get involved and are conversing openly more than ever. To some extent, the Web has been an arena of their stories and stands. A world of their mouths.