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Your brand, products and services all benefit when people are talking about you in positive terms. Word-of-mouth can be a wonderful tool to add to your marketing arsenal. Of course, it's not new, so how has word-of-mouth marketing—also known as buzz marketing—evolved into the 21st century? How does it differ from viral marketing or customer evangelism? And how do marketers use buzz marketing strategically?

MarketingProfs recently convened a Thought Leaders Summit to get the answers to these questions and more. On hand were Dave Balter, founder and president of BzzAgent and founding member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association; Luanne Calvert, founder of Mixed Marketing; Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, authors of Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers become a Volunteer Sales Force; Jim Nail, principal analyst with Forrester Research; Jerry Needel, vice-president of client services at BuzzMetrics; and Emmanuel Rosen, author of Anatomy of Buzz. What follows is their collective wisdom.

What is buzz marketing?

Emmanuel Rosen, author of Anatomy of Buzz, defines buzz as "all the person-to-person communication about a brand." More specifically, all your company's activities and efforts geared to stimulate positive person-to-person communication about your brand, products and services.

Sure, that's a broad definition. But his definition is broad for a reason—buzz marketing is the responsibility of everyone in a company. It's not only about creating products that people will pass on to their friends, but it encompasses all our efforts to stimulate person-to-person communication about our brand.

People are always searching for (and sharing) honest opinions about a product or service. Buzz marketing is about getting your product noticed by creating an event or experience that will get people talking. Tactically and for the short-term, it's great for product launches. It's authentic. It can be online and offline. And you can leverage PR and publicity along with it. The bottom line: Buzz can differentiate your company on a grand scale.

Buzz vs. evangelism vs. viral

Buzz marketing is about creating an event. Viral marketing targets people and places to spread the word. As an example, the launch of Tide Cold Water appealed to the Coalition for Energy Efficiency by playing up the product's inherent energy savings. And the approach proved to be very successful. The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, which actually started in Chicago in 1936, is still out there today creating buzz.

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Stephan Spencer is the founder of Science of SEO and an SEO expert, author, and speaker.

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