Have You Heard? Word-of-Mouth Success Can be Achieved Online
The landscape of organic search is constantly evolving–so much so that I can guarantee Google will have changed its algorithm by the time I’ve finished writing this post. As digital marketers, we know how frustrating that can be. Fortunately, there is one constant factor in this ever-changing environment. Unfortunately, that one factor—achieving sustainable, long lasting, so-proud-you-hang-them-up-on-the-refrigerator type results—takes time. We live in a hyper-competitive, results-driven world that demands quick success. So the question is, are the strategies we develop and employ providing value on top of their inherent search benefits? From where I stand, the answer is a definitive “yes.”
The output of our work is unique and multi-faceted. As such, the benefits are realized in a number of different ways. As the leader of our digital advocacy team, most of my energy is spent creatively identifying ways to improve brand visibility and engage influencers on behalf of our clients. As such, my perspective on the global value of our work is likely slightly different than that of my co-workers (though I’d encourage any of my colleagues to counter with their take on the topic).
So what are those other brand visibility benefits (outside of SEO) that our software and approach delivers for our clients’ brands?
- Qualified reach and impressions: Throughout the duration of our campaigns, millions of highly targeted users are exposed to our messaging through a myriad of channels. The global reach of our tactics are achieved and consistently reported on through use of our proprietary Chorus platform.
- Improvement in digital brand perception: As a result of these highly qualified impressions, we’re able to build a critical mass of those exposed to this positive messaging, thus improving their relationship with and perception of the brand.
- Direct consumer engagement: In addition to amplifying the reach of branded content and other marketing assets, our strategies also help to nurture meaningful dialogue between the brand and its consumer. This approach sparks natural sharing in the short term and opens the door to long-term customer advocate possibilities down the road.
- Creation of a hyper-targeted network: With each personal connection we make in the online communities related to our clients’ brands, we continue to build a unique and sustainable network that can be leveraged for any future communication campaign or crises a client may endure.
That’s great, but how can I best leverage this platform and reach?
People are typically most influenced by their friends and family. Is this a groundbreaking insight? Not a chance. But it’s shocking how many people quickly gloss over that fact. If I were looking for the best cup of coffee in the area, I’d take the suggestion of a friend over a billboard or flyer. To me, word-of-mouth is still the strongest form of market validation, and a channel that is typically overlooked when developing digital tactics. So why has no one found a way to translate this success into a cohesive online strategy? Likely because it’s not easy.
If you really break down the brand visibility benefits of our strategies, they boil down to a digital representation of this coveted word-of-mouth approach. Blog owners and social media users oversee strong and influential constituency groups and are capable of amplifying messages in short order. The simplicity of blogging and social technologies has enabled millions of individuals to have a voice; the difficult part is penetrating these discussions.
The fact that I would choose the coffee spot my friend recommends comes down to three things: trust, authority, and validation. Being my friend, I trust their opinion. Being from the area, I know they have the knowledge to steer me in the right direction. And lastly, validation is a critical element of our human nature. As human beings, we strive to surround ourselves with people and activity that ultimately reassure our path in life.
Each of these factors also exists online and their sum is critical for brands and organizations to leverage. Influence lives in all the niche pockets of the internet. In each online community, there are a number of bloggers who drive the ideas and concepts that become common practice/policy. Over time, authors build authority by consistently developing strong content and engaging with their readers. As a result, these blogs build their own unique following of readers who frequently visit and are in tune with the blog content itself. When those readers revisit the site and see fresh content, they treat the material as an endorsement from a trusted friend, thus validating any change in consumer activity or shift in perception towards the issue/brand/topic/product discussed in the content. If utilized properly, it’s easy to see just how powerful these connections become.
In today’s digital world, there are in fact ways to leverage word-of-mouth marketing and its key principles that have proven so valuable to brands and organizations. At the surface level, much of the benefit is related to improved search results, but there is also an additional layer of sustainable brand visibility that is achieved. The aggregate of all the relationships we build on behalf of a client results in the fostering of a unique network of bloggers that can be continuously leveraged. Not only does this allow for brands to amplify critical messaging to highly targeted and influential audiences, but it also facilitates the development of brand advocates. Those advocates have power, and the most powerful impact they have on a brand is the natural creation of trust, authority, and validation with their readers.