No spoiler alert needed: The major themes of WOMMA’s Talk360 Summit were trust and authenticity.
Edelman’s most recent Trust Barometer uncovered that today’s consumers have lost faith with most institutions including government, the news media and business. So who is their most trusted resource? Peers and peer-to-peer channels. Word-of-mouth from these personal networks and people who are “like me” is still the preferred channel for recommendations and information.
This was abundantly represented across many sessions at WOMMA’s most recent national summit on word-of- mouth marketing.
Multiple sessions presented the latest thinking in influencer marketing. What was new? The pendulum is swinging back from an almost exclusive focus on paid influencers with a huge audience to working with micro influencers who have smaller followings but more authentic and interesting voices. These are the people who started it all in the early part of this century when WOMM was first becoming a thing. The best practice then was for brands to uncover their most passionate fans and tap them to create content, work as leaders in support communities and spread WOM through a variety of techniques.
The goal then was to find, activate and develop deep relationships. In true marketing fashion, the desire to scale soon followed. This led to a wave of innovation with companies developing platforms to engage consumers, tap hand-raisers and engage in campaigns. These people did not have to already be a brand fan. Instead, engagement sprints would encourage consumers to share content or use a coupon and then earn points for swag or bigger rewards. They would be provided assets such as a company logo or an image and be asked to create and share net new content right on the platform. Or, the brand would provide samples and invite people to share their experiences and recommend.
These tools made it easy to access content, share it and ultimately to be rewarded both intrinsically and extrinsically. Soon, companies were identifying bloggers and YouTube stars who had both expertise and a following in specific categories. They created huge databases of these influencers and sold access to them. This facilitated brands’ ability to tap influencers in paid programs. They would provide a creative brief and reward the influencer to create content or include their product as organically as possible in their digital and social ecosystem. This became a pay-for-reach model, which has been growing significantly over the last few years.
Many brands reported across multiple sessions the return to tapping people who already have experience with their products and who love the brand. We used to call these people evangelists. They wanted to share their expertise and real life stories so they could help others have similar great experiences with the brand.
- Microsoft was a pioneer in this approach as was Dell, Intel. Friskers, and Nestle.
- Many of these brands and the agencies that helped them are still WOMMA members and continued to share their experience at the Talk 360 Summit.
Another aligned and timely topic was ethical word-of-mouth and FTC compliance, particularly as it relates to paying influencers in pay-for-reach programs. WOMMA is sponsoring an event this fall in Washington D.C. to delve more deeply into this topic.
In all, 10 of the 29 sessions focused on influencer marketing, which constitutes a trend. The common threads were the authentic voice and trust factors inherent in this node of modern marketing.
Kathy’s forte is enterprise content strategy, content marketing and thought leadership. Over the past 40 years, she has worked with both emerging brands and large enterprises in developing content and thought leadership strategies. She has written several research reports, white papers and has been a key contributor to Forbes Publish or Perish Report.