The New Frontier of Word-of-Mouth Marketing is Visual
In "The Tipping Point," Malcolm Gladwell writes "the sophistication and wizardry and limitless access to information ... is going to lead us to rely more and more on very primitive kinds of social contacts." As Gladwell explains, these primitive social contacts — i.e., word-of-mouth interactions — gain influence in proportion to the growth of digital culture.
In the decades since "The Tipping Point's" publication, word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) has evolved in reaction to technology. WOMM's newest reincarnation comes in the form of branded visual content. Thanks to mobile social media apps like Instagram, photos and videos are proving to be powerful digital marketing tools. The visual nature of these social platforms offers branded content an extra push because consumers are attracted to visual things.
Marketers can increase their impact by leveraging these two important notions — word-of-mouth's trustworthiness and social media's visual reach — when creating branded content.
The word-of-mouth phenomenon involves more trust than any other advertising technique. According to a 2013 study by Nielson, 84 percent of respondents cited word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends as the most trustworthy form of advertising. Respondents were also likely to trust recommendations that other consumers post online.
Trusting close relationships is a human reflex ingrained by years of social development. For marketers, gaining this trust is the ultimate win. Yet WOMM is only as valuable as the social circles it operates in, and these circles are often too small to influence mass consumerism. Think about it: How many people's recommendations would you actually act upon? Five? Maybe 10? WOMM is great, but it can be slow and physically limited.
While marketers see the value in word-of-mouth strategies, many have trouble determining its impact and return on investment. Sixty-four percent of marketers agree that word-of-mouth and social media are more effective than traditional marketing. However, just 6 percent feel that they have mastered it. This is where social media, and in particular visual content, can help increase the impact of WOMM.