If you're confused about the terminology of word-of-mouth marketing, I have a little confession to make: sometimes I get confused about it myself.

As one of the authors who's written about this topic, I have to admit that we managed to create an impressive assortment of terms: buzz marketing, evangelism, viral marketing, advocacy marketing and so on.

But, in the end, the terminology doesn't matter that much. Yes, one can point out the fine distinctions between viral and buzz marketing, but at the heart of things we are all talking about ways to engage consumers in a conversation. We're all looking for strategies to stimulate people to talk about our brands, products or services. For this article, let's define buzz as all the person-to-person communication about a brand, and buzz marketing as a company's efforts to stimulate positive buzz.

What's troubling more than the definitions are the misconceptions about what companies should do to stimulate buzz. This is where I've seen confusion that can lead to unfortunate decisions. So here are five common misconceptions about buzz marketing—and what you can do to address them.

1. 'Buzz spreads like wildfire!'

Yes, big news can travel fast. But many marketers refuse to realize that most news about products is not earth-shattering and therefore can spread at a painfully slow rate. We've all heard the story of Hotmail, which went from 0 to 12 million subscribers in just 18 months. It's an amazing story... just not a typical one.

I think that the story of EndNote is more typical. It's a piece of software designed to help researchers keep track of their references and compile bibliographies at the end of their research papers.

From 1988 to 1998, I was responsible for launching and marketing this product. A high percentage of customers told us that they had heard about it from a colleague or a friend, but did word about it spread overnight? No. EndNote was one of those "five-year-overnight-success stories."

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Emanuel Rosen is author of The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word-of-Mouth Marketing. For more information, visit www.emanuel-rosen.com.