Sad news: Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketers have yet to grasp the true complexity of the online communal networks they are attempting to reach, according to one new research report. Here's how the researchers came to that conclusion. They set out to track the online WOM promotion of a "new" camera-equipped mobile phone (the "MobiTech 3839"). They seeded the campaign through "influential" bloggers who were encouraged, but not required, to blog about the phone. (Most chose to promote it.)
Big surprise: A complex array of factors influenced each campaign's success. Among their findings, the researchers isolated four main influencers that served to mold, and even significantly alter, the marketing message:
- The "character narrative" of the blogger. These narratives vary with each and every blogger, they report. Examples: A "loving mom" persona stresses kindness, helpfulness. A "professional" persona sets a more critical tone.
- The forum in which the blog is embedded. The researchers identified the following forum types in their experiment: personal-life crisis, relationship, technical, and mommy—but there's a multitude of them out there.
- The communal norms that govern the expression, transmission and reception of a message and its meanings. These norms can be influenced by average age, lifestyle, ethnicity, even the size of the forum, researchers report.
- The promotional characteristics of the campaign itself. These can include the type of product and its brand equity, the hard-sell nature of the campaign or even the use of humor.
So, what's a WOM marketer to do to master this complex new reality? Study up, these researchers advise.
"Because blogs and other social-media forums constitute a semi-permanent archive of consumers' WOM, managers can mine the conversations for consumer insights into their products and even into their marketing programs," they suggest.
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