Monday, April 4, 2011

Word of Mouth Marketing: Strategies for bloggers and marketers

Word of Mouth is capturing the mental space of many marketers especially the ones who have been open enough to embrace new media. Social Media has taken on the word like a storm thanks to some creative thinking by the Geeks in silicon valley. These nerds have given the "Non-Ners" a platform to socialize. Without wasting time on elaborating on the importance of Social Media (we all know about it), I'd like to talk about Word of Mouth that has taken the form of seeding campaigns adopted by marketers to spread awareness and increase adoption of their product. Recent research has studied the patterns in which bloggers write and its effects on the success of a seeding campaign. In one such study researchers analyzed the style of writing of bloggers and suggested effective styles that can be adopted by bloggers and marketers to make an Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) campaign effective. They came out with  two dimensions of a seeding campaign blog entry, one focusing on the deal (Tension) and the other capturing the orientation (Communal vs Individualistic). The four combinations arising out of these two dimension reflected the strategy adopted by bloggers.

1. Tension : The blogger knows he has been paid to write about the mobile. Does he explicitly mention about the deal or does he hide it and simply talk about the mobile ? In case of an "explicit" tension between the objectives of the blogger and the monetary incentive, the blogger mentions about the deal with the mobile phone marketing company in his blog entry. In the case of an "implicit" tension, the blogger does not mention about the deal in his or her blog post.
2. Orientation: A blogger may be individualistic, which makes the blog an individual oriented blog (like Seth Godin) or a Community oriented blog (like TechcrunchMashable, All Things Digital).

After analyzing the content of all the blogs, the research came out with four strategies.
1. Evaluation: In the case of evaluation strategy, the blogger plainly described the features and the attributed of the mobile phone, without mentioning the deal. (Tension: Implicit, Orientation: Communal). The reaction was mildly positive to the Word of Mouth (WOM) , this strategy produced.
2. Explanation: In this strategy followed by blogger, the blogger explained about the deal (Tension: Explicit) and evaluated the product in his or her blog entry about the mobile (Orientation: Communal). This produced again a mildly positive and a neutral reaction. 
3. Embracing: Here, the blogger was individualistic in his or her style of blogging, but did not mention about the deal (Tension: Implicit). It produced polar reactions (Highly negative or highly positive).
4. Endorsement: In this case, the general blogging style of the author was individualistic, but the blogger did mention about the deal. The overall reaction to this strategy was negative. 

Impact and Implications for Bloggers and Marketers
What this means for bloggers is that according to the communal norms they have to adopt a style to reduce hostility, if they want to be a part of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) campaign. Those following a community oriented style should focus on an evaluation strategy since it is incongruence with Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) objectives and their blogs. For an individualistic blog, it is best to not be directly a part of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) campaigns and for marketers, it is advisable to restrict their seeding campaigns to community oriented blogs.

The findings and the research shared in this article are from the paper "Networked Narratives: Understanding Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Online Communities" published in the Journal of Marketing.