Word of Mouth, the Holy Grail of Marketing Word of mouth marketing is one of the most desirable activities to brands, why? Because research on trust shows that consumers (folks like you and me) trust the opinions of people we know more than anyone else. It makes sense of course, think about the next time you’re going to buy a car, who’s opinion are you going to trust, those of your friends or the opinion of the sales guy representing the product?
[Information within Microblogging communities like Twitter encourage rapid word of mouth –of both positive and negative content]
[Within the Twitter community a “Retweet” is a social gesture indicating endorsement of an idea]
The “Retweet” How Information Quickly Spreads
As a result, the most powerful activity within Twitter is to watch the “Retweet” phenomeneon. A retweet is when one individual copies a tweet from someone in their network and shares it with their network. It’s perhaps the highest degree of content approval, it means that the content was so valuable and important that they were willing to share it with their network –causing it to spread from one community to the next –retweets are the core essence of the viral aspect of content spreading. Early research from Peter Kim indicates that twitter users are brand sensitive, and spread information. Since content can be shared, consumed on mobile devices, this information can rapidly spread faster than any other infectious technology we’ve ever seen.
How to Measure and Monitor the Coveted Retweets
Expect to see social media measurement tools appear that measure the spread of retweets, URLs, and other commonly repeated content to look for how information is passed from a source to a node, to an entire community. In fact, in a very primitive way, you can see those that are repeating the content of others, for example Tim O’Reilly’s content. See this search query showing “Retweet @timorielly“, or “RT @timoreilly” (an abbreviated version).
You should do the same query for your brand, products, and those of your competitors, start with this query “retweet yourbrand“, and change out yourbrand. At some point we can expect a service to appear that will track a tweet from a single source, then track how it is retweeted, then by who (and their number of followers) then to create a numerical value of the velocity of that single original tweet as it cascades through a community.
Impacts to Users, Brands and Vendors
Twitter Users: If someone retweets your content, be and feel honored, it means that your content was so important or interesting to them they are willing to share it with their own trusted network. If you need some guidelines on how to retweet, read this handy guide.
Brands: Companies should pay close attention to how information spreads and should do searches on their product and brand to learn what type of information is being spread by who.
Vendors: Social media measurement companies like Cymfony, Buzzmetrics, Radian 6, Buzzlogic, and others should start tracking the retweet stream around a brand and product to monitor and map out community and content hotspots. It’s possible to create some type of “Digg” or “Delicious” tool that maps the social voting and bookmarking based off the data gleaned from Retweets and TinyURLs.
55% of customers in their survey want to have an ongoing discussion brands
Respondents were most anxious to talk to the product design (49%) department, followed by customer support (14%), marketing (14%) and pricing (13%)
89% said they felt more loyal if they knew the brand was listening through a feedback group (attention insight community vendors)
WOM: Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said that they told at least 10 people about the last brand they liked.
WOM: Eighty-one percent of respondents will tell at least five people.
Despite this evidence, it’s interesting to note that a recent WSJ Article that Most Corporate Blogs Are Unimaginative Failures featuring a Forrester report shows that many corporate blogs (a common way companies talk to customers) isn’t going that well. One common mis-step is that corporate blogs are focused on pushing their own agenda, not that of the readers/customers.
I would love to do some formal research on this on the day job, the following is just highlighting a probabble definition and formula, it certainly doesn’t include any formal methodology or practiced process.
There’s been a great deal of talk about ‘virality’ or ‘word of mouth’ but when it comes to measurement, we need something just a bit more substantial.
When I was on the vendor side at PodTech as Director of Corporate Social Media Strategy (client facing), I worked closely with Darold Masaro, VP of Sales. We frequently bantered over new ways to improve measurement as this is important improving existing programs and increasing budgets.
For many of those in the social media space, the goal is to ‘let go’ of your message and let it fly all around the web, getting folks to come to your irrelevant corporate website isn’t the goal –fish where the fish are.
Defining Social Media Velocity: Distance over Time
But how do you measure a distributed web strategy? We looked to one of many attributes called “Velocity”. This is not a new term, in fact, Physicists define this as distance traveled per unit time. As I described to Darold what we should be measuring, he quickly pegged I was seeking the term ‘velocity’, it’s stuck with me ever sense, the credit should go to him. The same applies to the web, and here’s how:
[Velocity, when applied to Social Media, is the measurement of how fast an idea, embed, widget or other like unit spreads over web properties. Benchmarked over time, acceleration and deceleration indicate relevancy]
Distance: As units (text, audio embeds, video embeds, widgets, memes) spread from one website to another you can track the URLs where they spread to.
Time: Depending on how fast a unit moves, it can vary from day to week, or less effective, perhaps a month.
Week One: A widget was installed on 5,000 Facebook profiles within 7 days, resulting in a weekly velocity of 714.
Week Two: A widget was installed on 15,000 Facebook profiles within 7 days, resulting in a weekly velocity of 2142.
Also, you could look at this over time and benchmark, and then look for accelerations and decelerations, in this case, week two accelerated from week one by 300%.
Now here’s how Darold further explains velocity:
“Velocity is the speed, direction, and size of conversations traveling the Internet around our brands. When I talk about velocity it’s from the perspective of a wave. So in that case we need to answer this question…What do markteers and sailors have in common? They should both be concerned about waves. Marketers should think in terms of conversational waves. Conversations are more effective for building brands than buzz, but this requires keeping the conversation alive.”
I asked Darold for just a definition but I see he couldn’t help but share more, I guess his days of getting an MBA just compelled him to think this through further. What’s interesting is Darold is a sailor, no not the cursing, one-eyed patch sailors with a parrot named jenkins, but pilots sailboats in Santa Cruz bay over wine and cheese.
He extends the sailing metaphor further, here’s just a portion of his thesis:
“It’s helpful to understand the four key aspects of a wave in order to gain insight into conversations around our brands. Hey I am a sailor and I see the world as a series of nautical metaphors.
Velocity represents both speed AND direction. This is important to point out as most use the common term of velocity which is just speed. I associate speed with what I hear a lot these days … “I want my campaign to go viral.” Where viral represents speed (how quickly, by how many), but we should also look at who is consuming our messages (direction) and sustaining the momentum. So there is more to velocity than speed and direction, and is important to understand if we are to build sustainable conversations around our brands.
We need to understand amplitude which is the size of the wave (this is equivalent to buzz), and frequency. The IceRocket graph below is an example of amplitude and frequency. The size of the wave is easy to understand, but frequency is less clear. In sailing we replace the word frequency with period. That is how long (in seconds) between the crest of one wave to the next. In the world of sailing the amplitude and period of a wave is very important for understanding the sea state. In marketing we have a sea state around our brand. To often the sea is calm, choppy or pounding with large unsustainable waves that come crashing down.”
If you want to reach Darold he can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tristan Nitot, (his blog on open source in French) CEO of Mozilla Europe talks about how Firefox spread mainly through word of mouth and people just sharing it and advocating it to others. He suggests that the open source initiative first resonated with people, thus spurring word of mouth. They encouraged users to have the software loaded on a portable thumbnail flash drive, and install it wherever they went. Blogs were a big component of how it spread, as well as local communities that would be passionate about their region, self-supporting each other, and spreading the word.
Un traditional web strategies
As you may know, Mozilla hasn’t done a lot of traditional marketing or advertising (except for at least one full page add in NYTs with the launch of Firefox 1.0) and is really relying on social media to spread the tools. Exactly how fanatic is it’s customer base? So fanatic that some users created an actual crop circle and it’s featured all over google images searches, as well as in Google Earth! Or they’ve leaned on the community to create and submit videos (30 second commercials) with Firefoxflicks, some of which actually went on major TV networks, sans production costs.
If you’re looking for stats, you’ll find that Firefox is the second most used browser in the world, and it’s primarily spread through grass roots adoption, against a Microsoft product that comes embedded on many platforms. Users have to go out of their way to download the software, let alone spread it to others.
This is fascinating, if I substitute the word ‘Firefox’ and insert the name of ‘any religion’, it still makes sense. For many, it’s almost as if Firefox is gospel.
Although the press release doesn’t say, I suspect it will be a platform that a customer can rebrand to ‘fit’ on a corporate website. I also want to know if there are ‘widgetized’ components that can embed on a static/irrelevant website. It’s my prediction that websites (corporate ones at that) will become social, with community components being a big part of the experience. Here’s primers on Social Graph and Open Social if you need to get up to speed.
Despite this being a very, very crowded market (see my master list of over 80 companies) Six Apart has three things going for them: 1) Brand recognition: companies that have already deployed a social media program have already looked or used their blogging tools. 2) Experience. With Vox, a form of a more secure social network site previously launched, the hopes are the company has worked out any bugs to extend this tool to brands. 3) Movable Type: Reading between the lines, I suspect this is an ‘upsell’ opportunity for existing MT users, which is a good move for them as they already have a strong footprint with existing customers.
Rafe at webware, who has positioned this story as a solution for forums (I see it as much more than that), suggests that the $10k price tag is steep (not sure if a one time or monthly fee, but I suspect a one time fee as this appears to be a licensed sale). As an analyst, clients are sending me proposals from vendors and I see monthly price tags for these community-in-box solutions comparable or even more per month. Big brands don’t want to deal with infrastructure problems and are willing to pay up that price tag, also Marketers may not want to deal with a confused or slow IT department. Lastly, brands have more important things to worry about, like building a strategy.
I used to be an implementor, and in 2005, I launched a corporate blogging program at a brand you know, we started with Typepad, as it was easy, aimed for corporate, and I could avoid dealing with a long, over-calculated IT department. For these same reasons, white label social networking and community platforms will experience similar adoption patterns in corporations.
Oh, and thank you Jane for writing a press release void of hyperbole, it’s refreshing, and respectful of our time.
(Above video: this 90 second clip from the folks at MediaSnackers summarize the changing landscape)
What’s a mediasnacker? Folks who consume small bits of information, data or entertainment when, where, and how they want. If you want to be part of their lives you’ve got to respect them. I’d argue that the folks who created this video emphasized too much that mediasnackers are the youth only, because business folks of any age are busy, get information from multiple sources, and need filters.
Here’s how I respect MediaSnackers
The reports I will write as an Analyst are designed to give decision makers the right information in the most concise medium
What I’m not good at
Keeping my blog posts tight and concise, I need to work on that more, I’m known for excessive writing, and it likely scares people off.
I also publish too frequently, which is also not respecting your time, as I get busier at work, that will naturally change.
Scoble does long videos (although Rocky often creates summary versions), and Chris Pirillo streams for hours a day, does that work? How does that work in today’s new attention economy? We have more inputs but the same number of hours a day.