Jackie Huba, Co-Founder of The SWOM, The Society for Word-of-Mouth and co-author of Creating Customer Evangelists: How loyal customers become a volunteer sales force and Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message and the ever-popular Customer Evangelists blog joined us to talk about the most powerful form of marketing: word-of-mouth from customer evangelists and what’s happened over this past tumultuous year for word-of-mouth and social media.
What’s been the biggest change this year for the word-of-mouth, customer evangelism, community?
The biggest change in Word-of-mouth is social media. Many organizations have realized that “social media is a jet stream” for them and is a great way to connect with customers who love you.
How has that changed the daily lives of consumers, agencies, and brands?
There are many case studies of companies who now embrace this form of media for customer service. Dell, Comcast, hotels, airlines, Zappos, BestBuy.
Companies realize customers are talking about them 24 x7. And they need to be part of those conversations, 24 x 7.
Consumers are starting to realize that companies are listening. People are learning a new comfort level with social media and voicing their opinions and the opportunities to connect with companies. Many advertising agencies are now having more of a difficult time as social media continues to be a free or low cost avenue of advertising.
Why do agencies (PR, social media, advertising, marketing, etc) find it difficult to embrace word of mouth?
They just have many processes that they have become accustomed to. All of the players and facets are known factors. Social media is a disruptive force.It is the evolution of change.
What are you talking about now in terms of customer evangelism that wasn’t happening 1 year ago?
1. Seeing more people using social media negatively: spam, people who don’t know how to use it or using it wrong.
An example is the UK, an intern created a business account for his company to tweet about their products, but he would look for top trending topics on twitter and use that hashtag, adding it to their tweets, whether it was appropriate or not. He was trying to gain visibility, but basically he was only spamming people looking for those trending topics. There was a great amount of backlash and the intern's company needed to apologize.
2. More nefarious people coming forward and offering to sell you 10,000 followers or embedding a virus in the URL on their profile.
What other social media resources are people using with great success?
Using Twitter for customer service. Comcast was one of the first companies to do this. Best Buy has a very large customer service presence on Twitter. 500 employees were given twitter accounts. They created a page where all their tweets and retweets and conversations with customers on twitter are aggregated into one feed. They use the hashtag Twelpforce. Customers can see them. They have a page for employees, telling them how to help customers, from policies to the best service. From a cost basis analysis, this is an efficient way to reduce training cost.
From the internal operations side, it is interesting that these companies have the confidence to “unleash” their employees to the public, but it also shows the companies recognize these conversations would happen whether or not they are there managing them. They are doing the right thing and providing the training, and the resources and the customers or prospects can see at a glance the service offered. See it as it's delivered every day. That's a huge confidence builder. This is another positive, cost-effective, method of advertising for the brand.
Let’s talk about social media. Everyone else is now. Twitter, blogs, youtube, facebook, podcasts like this, what else?
What’s the relationship of social media to word-of-mouth and customer evangelism? Does it help, hinder, remain neutral?
Twitter is the fastest word-of-mouth on the planet. It's instant. Whether or negative or positive. One example of this was the Dominoes Pizza video where employees were defiling the food and they uploaded it to You Tube.It received 760,000 views in 24 hours. That wouldn’t have happened except for Twitter.
Another examples was The Amazon.com issue that revolved around the rankings for gay and lesbian books that were being pulled so they were not appearing in the top Best Seller list. An author had seen this and believed that gay and lesbian books were being censored and he wrote a blog post about this. The blog post was soon picked up on Twitter and there was an outcry. Amazon had to respond.
A third example was Motrin Mom: there was an ad that moms did not like and they started a campaign against it on Twitter. Within 3 days, the ad was pulled from all media.
The best example of social media being used to generate incredible word-of-mouth for a brand was a Ford fan site began receiving cease and desist letters. He soon began blogging about it and again, the medium of Twitter was the hit again, creating an incredible buzz about the story. Scott Monty, the community manager for Ford's social media site, jumped in immediately to investigate this. He did discover there were several sites selling forged merchandise that had not been licensed. The lawyers only requested that the bad links be removed. In just 24 hours, Scott Monty had quelled that entire disaster.
What is the biggest positive impact of Social Media on Customer Evangelism?
1. Your objective is building a community of customer evangelists: the whole idea with social media and being able to connect with these people on an ongoing basis. It is a business communication mechanism. The ability for any company to connect with their fans is really amazing.
Example:2 guys in 2007 who really liked bacon, wanted everything to taste like bacon. They created bacon salt. They had no marketing experience or retailing.It is delicious! Their whole strategy was to use social media and connect with anyone who liked bacon and commented about bacon.Now they have thousands of people asking about Bacon Salt-going to the retailers, wanting the product. The retailers soon searched the product and began carrying it. It is now in 50 states and they were even on Oprah, all gained through social media.
What are the 3 biggest misconceptions about social media and generating WOM?
1. There's still the misconception that you need something to go viral for something to be successful in Social Media. A funny cartoon or a funny video. You don’t need viral. The largest viral campaign was: Elfyourself – it was distributed to millions of people, but only a small percentage of people realized that it was produced by OfficeMax and it did not generate any large amount of new purchases. So, just because something goes viral, does not ensure successful branding and financial gains.It makes more sense to use these different mediums to build a following and engage.
2. It can’t be measured. There are really many measures for social media to discover if your efforts are successful. There are tactical and strategic ways to measure results of your campaign.
3. You can put your intern in charge of your SM. You need a seasoned individual to manage your social media and customer service. You want the most experience person managing these types of networks.
It gets back to understanding the value and a commitment level to SM and your organization.
Why do brands and agencies overlook the power of the consumer and WOM?
For some larger companies, it is about learning to change the customer experience, improving the service and products. And sometimes, they, the agency can't be in control of that part. It is a lot of hard work that must be worked on from each level.
What's the most recent inspiring example of a company dedicated to Jackie Huba as a customer?
The small businesses that are learning to use these services. There is a local cupcake company here in Austin. I tweeted about it and then one day the owner saw me, said I recognize you and she realized she’d read my tweets about it. The owner used Twitter to connect with more people, increase her business, and build her brand.
Twitter is sugarmamas
Website: Sugar Mama's Bake Shop
Let’s assume we have companies listening, or employees of companies listening as companies don’t listen, employees do. And they have a limited budget. What is the one thing they can do right now to begin to generate word-of-mouth, from creating customer evangelists?
Have a purpose when doing social media. Use Social Media as a tactic to build loyalty. Focus on that everyday and you will create a business of people who will continually refer you to others.
You can follow Jackie on Twitter at JackieHuba. And you should.