There probably isn’t a field of human endevour where someone, or in all likelihood many people, don’t regularly say “it’s not as good it used to be” or “it’s not like it was in the good old days”. Now, we are not about to start a debate about the impact of rose tinted glasses when it comes to looking back on the way things were. But when it comes to marketing, we often hear clients and marketeers talk about the way that marketing has changed… and not always for the better.
The advent of the world wide web has undoubtedly acted as an innovation in marketing. But we also think that it has revived a channel that many people claimed was dead and buried: Word of Mouth.
How do you make the web work for you?
In her book “The Small Business Guide to Online Marketing” Lola Bailey says that the internet has changed the way that people find businesses and make choices about purchases:
According to Jupiter Research, 80% of internet users find new websites by searching; not through the commonly citer ‘word of mouth’ from a friend or colleague. They do not even see it on a television advert or a billboard. What most people do is go on to Google, type in what they are searching for and go to the sites suggested by the search results.
But we think this is an outdated and simplistic view of how the internet has changed things.
How to make yourself heard
By December 2012, Netcraft reported that there were 633,706,564 active websites on the internet, an increase of 51 million year on year.
What does this mean? Well for one thing, it means that website owners are increasingly desperate to be heard above all the ‘noise’ on the web. When you are one of over half a billion voices, how do you get heard?
Obviously search engine optimization (SEO) is one way to increase your chances of getting seen – of being one of the first sites that the people that Lola Bailey talks about who “go to the sites suggested by the search results”. But users of the internet are also aware of the fact the SEO is a commercial operation and a site prepared to use SEO tactics, whether legitimate or otherwise, can force themselves up the ranks without actually producing or supplying anything of value.
Be talked about
This is where Word of Mouth is making a comeback.
People are turning to their friends to find out which companies and which products and services are really valuable, not which ones have the biggest SEO budget. And where are they asking them? Increasingly they are using social media.
As anyone who is on a social media channel will know, people are using Facebook and twitter to crowd-source answers to questions about which products or services they should buy and from whom. And they are searching their friends’ social outlets such as Pinterest and LinkedIn for ideas and recommendations.
So if you are one of the companies that has had the foresight to build a presence on the web, make sure you cultivate your tribe and engage with existing and potential brand advocates. By making sure that people are talking positively about your products or services and recommending them when they see a request for advice on a social network, you won’t need to be top of the search engine listings… your customers will come directly to you.