In the days before the Internet, most advertising was done indirectly through word of mouth.
Sure, there were mediums like flyers, brochures and television commercials; however, once a few people tried the specific product or service and liked it, they began to recommend the company behind the innovation to family and friends. Even in the day and age of the Internet and social media where news can quickly spread like wildfire, word of mouth is still a lucrative form of indirect advertising that businesses would be wise not to overlook.
Why Word of Mouth May Pack a Bigger Punch than Direct Advertising
Obviously, people trust their family and friends more than they trust an ad with a business agenda. Of course, ads are going to speak favorably of the product or service being promoted. It is doubtful that anyone has ever seen an ad with a negative slant of whatever is being advertised. This is why people don’t pay too much attention to ads because they are obviously biased.
Friends and family, however, will tell it to you like it is. Their reviews and recommendations are reliable because they have nothing to gain and are even putting their trust and reputation on the line.
Since word of mouth is indirect, there is nothing you can do directly from your end, though you can certainly influence it by strengthening your brand and engagement with existing followers. The following are some simple strategies for cultivating an environment where word of mouth can rapidly spread to an expanded audience.
Establish a Close-knit Community via Social Media
This is a given, but social media is almost a must for getting your brand established. As of 2012, 65% of Internet users are active on at least one social network. Forty-one percent of Facebook users have also indicated that they shared content from a particular brand on their wall. Content sharing, re-tweeting and re-pinning are the digital versions of word of mouth and work every bit as effectively.
Target the Major Influencers in Your Demographic
Once you establish a brand and develop a steady fellowship, identify the target influencers within your circle of followers. These are people with their own platform and own existing readers. Examples of influencers include bloggers, journalists and those with a large following on social media. Don’t badger these people with endless promotional pitches. Instead, engage them in a friendly dialogue to build a rapport. If all goes well, the rest will take care of itself.
Be Honest and Trustworthy
Word of mouth depends on the users’ overall trust of the brand. They are not going to recommend something to someone if they are still on the fences. For your brand to earn enough merit, you have to create enough content that is worthy of discussion. Maintain your integrity by speaking candidly about your brand. This means avoid creating too much hype and sensation over your products and services and be clear about what it is these products or services do and don’t do.
This goes back to creating strong consumer engagement. While you can’t reach out to everyone on an individual level, try to answer as many personal inquiries as you reasonably can. Also, when you answer a question or respond to a comment, address the person by name. If you can, keep tabs of these responses and include a follow up a few days later, once again addressing the person by name. Consumers will be impressed when you reach out to them on a one-on-one basis.
Most web design firms create a marketing environment optimal for word of mouth to happen naturally. Word of mouth marketing not only strengthens your brand but also creates additional consumers who themselves may spread the word and further widen your customer base.