WOM UK Guest Post: Emanuel Rosen on The Dangers of Secondhand Buzz

October 5, 2009 at 10:17 am | Posted in Events, Guest post | 1 Comment
Tags: emmanuel rosen, negative word of mouth, secondhand buzz, wom uk

As a teaser for his presentation in London at 8.30am this Wednesday 7th October, internationally renowned word of mouth author Emanuel Rosen has written an exclusive article for us on one of the big worries for brands in social media: negative, uninformed WOM. Read on below and make sure to register for his talk – you’ll get a chance to network with the UK’s top WOM agencies and get a free copy of his book too!

EMMANUELOne of the most interesting studies I read in conducting the research for my new book was done by Dr. Robert East from Kingston University in London. He found that about 30% of negative word of mouth comes from people who never owned the product that they were talking about. If you’re a marketer, I’m sure this is pretty upsetting: you’re working hard on developing a product or a service, and people are badmouthing it without giving it a chance.

But consumers should be annoyed by this too because secondhand buzz is not very helpful. In its purest form, word of mouth is a filtering mechanism that we use in order to find good products. In a society where every person recommends only products that they personally tried and liked, good products will quickly rise to the top. When people simply relay information that they heard, you get something that could be best described as a buzz bubble, as depicted in some book reviews that I found on Amazon.com: “I haven’t read this book but judging from the online reviews below, I don’t think it’s a very good book” (one star). Or “I haven’t read this book yet, but my friend has and she said it was a really cool book…” (five stars).

As consumers and as marketers, we should try to reduce secondhand buzz. Specifically, here’s what marketers can do about it. A good way to start is to divide the people who talk about your brand into four groups: experience-based promoters (“I tried it. It’s great”), experience-based detractors (“I tried it. It’s terrible”), secondhand promoters (“Julie says it’s great”), and secondhand detractors (“Joe says it’s terrible”). And here’s what you should do with each group:

1. Maximize the number of experience-based promoters
Research shows that experience-based buzz is more likely to bring sales. The Keller Fay Group found that 53% of the people who listen to experience-based positive buzz mark 9 or 10 on a 0-10 scale of likelihood to purchase a product. In the case of second-hand positive word of mouth, the percentage of people who mark the top boxes drops to 33%. And that’s why it’s so important to trigger your happy customers to spread the word. A big part of word-of-mouth marketing is about reminding people who had a positive experience with your brand to talk about it. This will not stop the secondhand detractors from talking, but will reduce the percentage of their comments in the overall mix.

2. Encourage secondhand promoters to try your product
Of course it’s great that these secondhand promoters are buzzing about your brand, but their ability to create actual sales is not as high as the experience-based promoters. So secondhand promoters should be triggered to keep spreading the word, and equally important – to actually use the product! Their buzz will become more valuable.

3. Listen to experience-based detractors
Listening to bad buzz can be painful, but by doing it you achieve two goals: first, you can find unhappy customers (experience-based detractors), solve their problem, and possibly turn them into promoters. Even more importantly, you may identify problems in your system that will allow you to improve the experience of future customers and reduce additional negative buzz. (And there are so many ways to listen to buzz these days: pick up the phone and talk to customers, meet them at retail outlets, read what’s being said about you in blogs and Twitter, set up a private online community, run surveys, talk to the people at your call center…)

4. Three things to do with secondhand detractors
First, you should listen to them, too. They may be repeating a valid complaint, thus helping you identify a problem that is fixable. Second, you can try to find them and let them try the product, although this may be impractical in many cases. Third, as mentioned earlier, you should reduce their influence by encouraging your happy customers to talk. Perhaps the most important thing here is to build an immune system that will reduce the impact of their negative comments on the rest of your audience. There’s a name for this immune system. It’s called reputation, and it is affected by the consumer experience with your product and by what they have heard about you over the years. This is where advertising and public relations can help too in setting the facts straight. Word-of-mouth marketing does not work in isolation.

The main point is this—a firm can and should be proactive about minimizing unjustified negative word of mouth and maximizing positive word of mouth. You can’t afford to leave things to chance.

Essential WOM UK events from The Guardian and Emanuel Rosen

September 23, 2009 at 10:14 am | Posted in Events | 5 Comments
Tags: buzz, emmanuel rosen, social media, the guardian, wom uk, word of mouth

There’s a lot of buzz around word of mouth marketing, but many businesses and agencies are crying out to be educated on what this industry is really about, what it can do for them, and how they can get involved. That’s why I’m delighted to announce our next two London-based upcoming events which will give two exciting and accessible perspectives on the WOM landscape as it stands.

First up on 8.30am Wednesday 30th September, The Guardian present their new word of mouth research study and communications planning tool that provides a practical framework for identifying influential people. Kicking off with breakfast and lasting until 10am at Guardian News & Media, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, it’s an easy chance to squeeze in some learning, as well as some networking with top WOM practitioners, at the start of your day. Free to all; email [email protected] to sign up.

rosen

Then on 8.30am Wednesday 7th October, Emanuel Rosen talks about ‘The Anatomy of Buzz (Revisited)’, the newly updated version of his WOM guide which topped the bestseller lists in 2001 and became an instant international classic. Drawing on his own experiences in high tech as well as hundreds of interviews with consumers, researchers and marketing executives, Emanuel will discuss proven techniques for stimulating buzz. It’s another morning session lasting until 10.30am at Ogilvy & Mather, 10 Cabot Square, Canary Wharf, E14 4QB. Free to WOM UK members, £10 for everyone else; email [email protected] for a place.

The Council will be attending, blogging and fuelling discussions, so come along and say hi.

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