Last week I attended the WOMMA Summit in Miami, put on by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (womma.org). Something I heard during one of the presentations that’s still rattling around in my head is that word-of-mouth works, but “word-of-mouth marketing” is broken. At first I was a bit taken aback by those words. After all, we were at a conference attended solely by people who make a living doing word-of-mouth marketing. But after hearing the rest of that presentation, I can’t say I disagree.
I could go into the full details of the presentation but the thing that matters most—and if changed could make life for both marketers and consumers so much more fulfilling—is the fact that the way we measure word-of-mouth misses the point.
I’ll use an anecdote for illustrative purposes. When I was a kid, my brother and I went to two separate neighborhoods for Halloween. I went to the one with more houses, and he went to the darker, spookier one that had fewer houses, but were larger in size. When we got home that night, I assessed the volume of our Halloween candy bags (pillow cases) and it was clear that I was the winner. I had wayyyy more candy. However, when we emptied them onto the floor to examine our bounty, my pride quickly dwindled. I had an insane amount of Smarties, like half a pillow-case of Smarties…and here’s the kicker, I hate Smarties. My brother, on the other hand, had the big, full-size Snickers bars (not the fun-size ones), double-pack Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and loads of other candy scores. I was jealous. Despite my big bag o’ candy, I had lost.
What happened here was, I went to the neighborhood where there were lots of houses, and as a result, lots of trick-or-treaters. My guess is, since the owners of those houses knew they were getting lots of little ghouls on their doorstep, they scaled back on the quality and focused on quantity. Smarties are cheap and plentiful. I wanted volume, so I thought I was getting what I wanted until I realized that I got a whole lot of something that was good for nothing (apologies to the Smarties lovers out there).
Yes, this applies to word-of-mouth marketing.
If the idea of word-of-mouth marketing is to increase the amount of non-brand affiliated people who organically tell their friends about your brand, with the idea being that those friends will then go buy more of your stuff, then one might imagine you’d measure success by how much stuff you sold as a result of that word-of-mouth.
Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening. Brands are at the mercy of vendors who lead them to measure word-of-mouth success by things like potential reach, tweet counts, impressions, and “likes” or “followers”. Reach is worthless unless it actually delivers positive bottom line results. The minute you start measuring by those metrics, you’re now focused on quantity (Smarties) over quality (full-size candy bars) and the business impact is lost. Your word-of-mouth is now being spread by inauthentic pay-to-play mercenaries instead of authentic and organic brand advocates. Quality over quantity sounds simple and obvious, but not enough brands are measuring word-of-mouth that way, and too many vendors are selling shallow metrics because it’s cheaper and easier.
We are lucky enough as marketers to live in an era where everything is trackable and measurable. We have no excuse not to find a way to tie word-of-mouth to actual business impact, and it’s something we drive hard at with every one of our customers at Crowdly. It’s time to stop dancing around impact and tackle it head-on. Measure success by what’s actually important to your business and the natural progression will be to build strategies and tactics that fuel that success. Measure success by things like impressions alone, and you‘ll come away with inauthentic volume that will erode consumer trust and actually hurt your brand rather than help it.
Original post on Medium.com