The Truth Will Out
When you start to see how effective word-of-mouth marketing can be, you might feel the temptation to juice it up in little ways. Maybe you notice that no one in your online forum seems to be chatting about your fantastic customer service—what's the harm in an anonymous comment on the topic that praises a new policy? But Andy Sernovitz wants to remind you that actions like these are not only unethical, they teeter on the edge of a slippery slope that can lead to more devious—and sometimes illegal—actions like:
- Using your in-house staff or hiring an agency to post phony recommendations and comments on a systematic basis.
- Getting buzzers to hype your product or service even though they've never used it.
- Asking your fans to disguise their involvement in a campaign.
According to Sernovitz, determining how to handle any word-of-mouth marketing situation comes down to three basic principles spelled out by WOMMA's ethics code:
- Honesty of Relationship: You say who you're speaking for
- Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
- Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity
Says Sernovitz, "The truth is that word of mouth is based on truth, that liars will always be exposed, and honest companies will be richly rewarded by adoring fans." And that's a helpful bit of Marketing Inspiration.
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