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Why Your Social Media Posts Aren’t Word of Mouth Marketing

Social Media Dominates the Conversation


Whether on social media or through word of mouth, next week’s sales are driven by this week’s conversations about your brand.  The best way to grow your business is to help your customers do it for you.


Social Media Delivers Word of Mouth


Social media like Twitter isn’t word of mouth, however it is one of the methods by which  you can spread word of mouth.


Social Media Dominates Word of Mouth


This means that a huge portion of your total revenue is tied to the conversations among your customers.  But, you probably don’t have a strategy for creating and driving these conversations.  

You probably have a marketing strategy, a digital strategy, a content strategy, a social media strategy, a PR strategy, and more.  But you don’t have a word of mouth strategy, even though it’s arguably the most important driver of your business success.

Between 20% and 90% of all purchases are influenced by word of mouth, referrals and recommendations from one customer to another, either face-to-face or online.  Social media gets lots of attention and consumes a large portion of marketing budgets, however it is not the same as word of mouth.  

The word of mouth conversation taking place offline is vigorous and driven by the awareness and preferences of those involved in the conversation.  According to the folks at Engagement Labs, half of consumers are likely to make a purchase decision based on real life conversations.


Likes, Comments, and Shares


You have to understand the difference between social media and word of mouth.  Social media is simply one of the delivery systems that help to spread word of mouth.  Word of mouth is the story or verbal recommendation, word of mouth creates a conversation


Instagram is not Word of Mouth


Having a popular Instagram account is not the same as using thoughtful word of mouth. Likes and comments are different and less effective than word-of-mouth shares and recommendations.  

The real gold in social media is when a story is shared which brings others into the relevant conversation.


Cultivate Conversations


Every business should want to cultivate conversations and multiply the number of people passing along positive recommendations.  Less than 1 percent of companies have an actual plan for word-of-mouth marketing.


Word of Mouth Beats Social Media


Still most businesses are putting all their eggs in the social media basket.  Social media budgets in the U.S. are projected to jump from $4.3 billion in 2012 to more than $23 billion in 2019.  

Even with this eye-popping spending spree, social media remains less effective than traditional person-to-person exchanges when it comes to spreading word of mouth and engaging people in conversations.


You Can’t Buy Word of Mouth


Word of Mouth is Priceless


Although offline conversations are incredibly powerful, these discussions are difficult to track for your average marketing team.  It’s hard to know if and when these comments happen.  

Jonah Berger, the author of Contagious, explains word of mouth perfectly:

“You can shape it, you can encourage it, you can drive it, but you can’t buy it.”

This might make it seem like generating word of mouth is impossible, however there’s a secret weapon for creating these organic conversations.  Use “speech triggers.”


Something To Talk About


Speech Triggers Promote Word of Mouth


Establishing impactful word of mouth begins with giving people something they cannot help but talk about.  It could be as simple as a cookie on a hotel pillow, funny hold music, or an unusually extensive menu.

These speech triggers are noteworthy experiences that your customers will rush to share with their friends and family.  Those people will then share that same story or similar story with their friends and family.  


Remarkable, Relevant,Reasonable, and Repeatable


To be effective, a speech trigger must meet four requirements, your speech trigger must be remarkable, relevant, reasonable and repeatable.  This isn’t about surprise and delight and creating an amazing experience for one customer.  It’s about doing something believable and unexpected that all customers can experience and talk about.

A Speech Trigger example that many of us can relate to is the Cheesecake Factory’s menu, with it’s hundreds of items and thousands of words to describe them all.  The menu didn’t just happen, it’s a strategic choice by Cheesecake Factory that gets people talking.

Research has shown that 38% of Cheesecake Factory customers have talked about the menu in the last month without being asked.  The novel-sized menu is a simple thing that encourages conversation and makes customers advocates for the brand.


Create Your Own Speech Trigger


Every company can create a speech trigger by mapping the customer journey.  All you need to do is identify potential touch points and triggers for your customer.  

From there, interview new customers, long-time customers and lost customers to get their perspectives on your brand.  Use that information to create something original and unexpected for your customers.  

What can you do that customers don’t see coming?  That’s how you get them talking.


Chocolate Chip Cookies


DoubleTree’s famous chocolate chip cookies are a great example of a speech trigger.  The simple act of giving each guest a warm chocolate chip cookie when they check into the hotel makes a huge impact of the customer experience.

People talk about DoubleTree cookies all the time, which is one of the reasons why the company doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising.


Look Beyond the Social Media Buzz


Data and technology play a huge role in customer experience, however we can’t forget the old standbys, including word of mouth.  Word of mouth by our customers gets them talking, creating memorable experiences and building their brand loyalty and advocacy.


Get People Talking


Getting people talking and earning word of mouth recommendations involves more than chance, it requires a strategic plan. Andy Sernovitz, co-founder of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, encourages marketers to see social and offline as valuable but different tools.  

Social is useful in that it is instantly shareable, but offline truly shines for its credible repeatability.



Invest in Creating Word of Mouth Conversations


There’s nothing wrong with pairing offline and social in this case, but truly effective word of mouth marketing requires more than a few buzz worthy tweets.  Don’t throw all of your marketing dollars into the social media abyss.  

Invest some of your valuable resources into creating truly noteworthy experiences.  Your customers will be enamored, and their real-life networks will be more than happy to spread the word.


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