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How to use word of mouth

Most probably, the previous post about how not to do your viral campaign left more questions than answers. Here is a post to give you a more clear idea what to focus on if you want your product to gain the word of mouth aspect as well.

Before we jump to characteristics of your product, let's see the general attributes of a viral message:

  • the message has to be interesting to the target audience
  • it has to be easily referred to another interested person
  • the referrer also gains something for referring people

Though may be other factors, influencing the effectiveness of your word of mouth marketing, you can as well start with the three above. Let's see them in more detail.

Provide value to your clients

As mentioned before, the key point to business success is providing value to your potential and existing customers. Everyone does something if he gains something from it, be it something tangible or not. The more valuable your product, service or message is to the recipient, the more likely he will refer his friends to your site or message.

To spread via word of mouth, your product can be a useful tool, a unique piece of information (some research results, an article by an expert, etc) or something entertaining (a video or some humourous story). Of course, your initial product or service has to fit in the viral message as well.

Make it easy to spread

Of course, though your message may provide immense value, it won't spread if people can't do it or it is difficult to do so. Of course, the easiest way of referring someone is providing a link. There may be numerous ways of providing a link: either via an e-mail (via a send to a friend script), instant messaging service or a social bookmarking service (like the ones you see at the bottom of the post).

Of course, you may want to get more publicity than the original word of mouth you get from people who visit your site. Here are a couple of efficient ways of spreading word of mouth:

  • blogs: bloggers are usually prone to catching things, especially seasoned bloggers, who have long blogged about everything in their niche and need new, unique stuff
  • forums: topical (industry) forums may be an efficient way of getting noticed if you are already recognized and trusted there
  • press releases: if your message suits the press, you may as well try issuing a press release (if it is also newsworthy)
  • social bookmarking sites: if someone bookmarks your message on a social site, it may get spread via the active part of the community
  • free distribution points, such as YouTube (free video hosting) or free podcasting hosting providers

Clearly, you'll need to choose the appropriate distribution channel for your message, because of the difference in the audience. Though, nowadays, you can find a blog about nearly every topic, issuing a press release may not be suitable for some word of mouth messages, most likely.

Give a referral bonus

When bloggers and social bookmarking sites are concerned, your virus may spread there for free, because the infected are interested in getting recognition and praise for spotting your juicy message early than the others, as well as free content for their site.

However, if you are more geared towards tech-savvy and business-engaged folk, you may want to give a coupon for service/product discount when sending a link to a friend via the 'send to a friend' script. Such an incentive may as well make your word of mouth marketing more efficient.

So right now you may be thinking how you can put it all together. As said before, providing value is key here, so you may as well rest your success on this. Create a messsage to provide unique value to your target audience and aim to provide value to those who spread your message via word of mouth and to those who receive it from the referrals. This way, the people will only spread the word about you because you are a valuable resource supplier, be it information, useful product/service or entertainment.

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