eWOM & The Future of Business

Social media drives eWOM

Twitter. Facebook. Two different platforms that achieve the same results for advertisers and business owners. We are all aware of the marketing and advertising that goes on throughout our timelines. From dating websites, to spam messages about a new fitness program that helps you lose 40 lbs in 20 days (It sells itself), our timelines house some the internet’s most tailored advertising. Businesses are increasingly tapping into our data and attempting to sell us their prediction of what we would like best; like they even know us right? Well with the new innovations it seems like they know us better than we know ourselves. What do I mean by this? I mean that new innovations of age old marketing techniques are raking in millions of dollars for advertisers and businesses. Word of mouth as tool has been very kind to marketers; so when we see it being transformed to mesh with the rapidly growing technological advances of society, it can only serve as a point of interest and intrigue (for people into this sort of thing, sadly there aren’t enough of us).

Let me specify, the idea of word of mouth (WOM) is not new in the field of marketing, heck its not really new to anyone outside of the field as well. It refers simply to the use of word and personal connection to sell products. As a marketing tactic, it has been used in countless campaigns to sell products, ideas, and beliefs. Uncle Sam? he is a word of mouth guru, Starbucks grew almost exclusively on word of mouth, even Adidas with all its resources and networks used word of mouth for a long time. WOM is truly the holy grail for marketers, its extremely effective and usually free.

So then, what happens when we mix WOM with the digital age of online and electronic gadgets? The result is pretty much the same, with a slightly less imaginative name, electronic word of mouth (eWOM) is born. eWOM like its none electronic predecessor serves as another excellent tool for businesses to influence people to buy things. With roughly 48 percent of all adults in the US using Facebook on a daily basis, according to 2015 study, innovating word of mouth to fit with the daily lives of people seemed like a forgone conclusion. Although there have been researchers, Johan Berger in Contagious: Why things catch on, who say using online tools in word of mouth campaigns are not as effective as traditional face to face word of mouth techniques; many business have relied on eWOM to reach their objective

Lets look at a few examples of businesses to implement eWOM successfully: Chipotle and RedBull.

Chipotle, wanting to tell its customers about its unique feature of sourcing its ingredients locally, took to social media to implement a technique in eWOM marketing called “buzz”. Electronic word of mouth buzz is usually used by businesses to create conversations about their products and to generate awareness. Chipotle created a game app and companion video to generate a discussion about this feature. They were extremely successful as they attracted over 614 million social media impressions. The video, posted below, is about the game they created and highlights local farming.

The Scarecrow created as a buzz tactic by Chipotle

The second successful business example of electronic word of mouth comes courtesy of our friends at RedBull, the worldwide leaders of the energy drink market. Anyone who has attended university in the past 5 plus years will no doubt know how much RedBull relies on word of mouth. The brand ambassadors, fellow students, seemed like they were present at every party and event associated with the university. The program relies on regular students to promote the RedBull brand to their friends, highlighting how it can help with late night study sessions.

On the electronic side, RedBull wanted to build on the success of previous eWOM campaigns by creating the “RedBull Reporters” marketing strategy where Red Bull sponsors journalism and film students to create news stories around the Red Bull brand. The company reaped the reward with a huge number of submissions talking about the positive experiences with RedBull.

So as it currently stands, companies have shifted their electronic word of mouth tactics to fit with the technology advances of today’s society, but where can it go from there? Well, it can either be a future of positivity and innovation or one of negative and cynicism. For one, many people have began to catch on to word of mouth techniques attempting to use friends and trusted sources to promote products, so in that sense, the WOM process will not be as influential if everyone catches on. However, as with any great idea, there will always be people around to tinker, edit, and improve it. The same can be said of eWOM; if it stops appealing to people’s trust, we might soon see it being changed to fit with beliefs and values instead.

My personal view is that eWOM will continue to surge and provide marketers and advertisers with millions in revenue. I think it will become an even more prevalent tactic used by marketers, and will focus primarily on mobile and text word of mouth. There is already data supporting the idea that applying to the most trusted source of information of a target group can lead to higher influence amongst that group. With many advertisers collecting data about the websites we frequent and our networks, through our internet and phone usage. I think that the future would be in these companies appealing, at times financially, to what they perceive to the most personal source you trust in your network in order to have you purchase.

Hence using text message word of mouth makes the most sense, because you naturally only text important people in your life. Ones you consider as having influential opinions. As such, tapping into text messages between close friends, or family, can be an innovation with immense rewards for businesses.