The power of word of mouth


A very important part of what we do at We Are Social consists in helping brands engage in social media by having meaningful conversations with people and igniting positive word of mouth. So as I was watching Loïc Le Meur’s video on ‘How to launch a product using your community’, I thought it was a brilliant illustration of why word of mouth is so important. As it’s in French, I’ll try and recap some key learnings here.

According to Loïc, traditional advertising, PR and marketing are all still very valid but are nowhere near as important as the power of word of mouth. He illustrates this by saying that when you are about to buy a product, what you want is to know what your friends think about it before you purchase it. You want to know what your community has to say about that product.

And to be honest, in some ways, this has always been the case. In the past, we would probably have asked our neighbors, colleagues or ‘real’ friends what they thought about product X or Y. Nowadays, those conversations about products and brands alike are happening online. And rather than transiently involving two or three of your friends, these conversations can now potentially reach millions of people and are permanent (as they’ll appear in Google’s results for ever). This is good if the conversation is positive and not so good otherwise.

Loïc adds another interesting point about online conversations: the years 1993-2000 were about static media – i.e. the online environment was a reproduction of traditional media; since 2000, we’ve seen the explosion of what we refer to as ‘social media’ – i.e. people interacting with people but also brands, via blogs, social networks, etc. And now, as Loïc highlights, since the beginning of 2009, the web has entered a new area. People still want to interact with their community but they want to do so in real time, via Twitter or Facebook statuses for example. Which means that when people talk about products and brands, they also do it in real time.

Hence the importance of listening and responding in real time as Robin was highlighting in his interview with emarketer ‘Social Media: Joining the conversation’. And both Seesmic & Twhirl are a great examples of brands who have understood the importance of listening in real time to the community’s feedback, to get insights into what’s good, or not so good about their products. And Loïc is the first one to say that this means sometimes he’s checking Twitter Search at 3am to read about the community feedback and to reply to it. Because Loïc knows that if 1,000 of Seesmic’s fans are convinced about the product, they’ll tell another 10,000 of their friends about how great the product is.

It’s all about ‘micro interactions’ as David Armano calls them. It’s about turning your fans into brand advocates.  And it works – this is how how he managed to get Seesmic Desktop application downloaded 1.5 million times in a few days. This is the power of word of mouth.