Marketers Use Social Networks to Manage Word of Mouth

The buzz about social networking is growing but some businesses have yet to see the importance of using this new tool. Last week, I mentioned that small online retailers are moving at a slow rate when it comes to social networking. A new report in McKinsey Quarterly may help reluctant business owners see the importance of using social networking effectively.

The basic idea is to “think of word of mouth generated on social networks as a distinct form of media.”  Writer Michael Zeisser reminds his readers to first consider the elements of word of mouth marketing:

  • It is a form of content that can be managed and measured.
  • It is an earned form of advertising (in contrast to purchased traditional advertising).

Zeisser then explains that businesses which successfully use social media typically find a way to be “genuinely useful to the individuals who initiate or sustain virtual world-​of-​mouth conversations.” In other words, he suggests that businesses will realize the largest gains by connecting with power social networkers. He recommends using the following strategies to develop that useful relationship with these individuals.

  • Importance: Consumers who begin and sustain word of mouth conservations crave importance. Businesses that recognize these individuals as important among their peer group can keep the conservations going. Allowing these individuals to publicize their achievements – for example – weight loss, on your social network will generate ‘contagions’ among friends and family members.
  • Virtual items: Consumers show strong and continuing interest in virtual items. Zeisser says that power social networkers like virtual goods because they allow for self-​expression and recognition. A business can improve its word-​of-​mouth effect by allowing users to ‘purchase’ virtual items as gifts for a power networker.

As more businesses study social networking, they may well shift to the model Zeisser describes to enlist the help of power social networkers to extend their brand appeal and increase sales through the use of earned advertising.

[Source: Zeisser, Michael. “Unlocking the elusive potential of social networks.” McKinsey Quarterly. June 2010. Web. 9 Jul. 2010] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.