Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Online word of mouth requires that one be online

While we talk about advertising techniques and search engine optimization and all of that stuff, the fact remains that one of the most trusted methods for obtaining product information is via word of mouth.

And while this could occur in a face-to-face conversation, it can also occur via electronic means.

This, of course, is nothing new. As I previously noted, I used electronic means to share product information (in this case, my opinion of the Wall of Voodoo album Call of the West) back in 1982.

And I was not the only college student to share music information online. In fact, four researchers studied the practice and reached several conclusions, including the following:

The results demonstrated that music Internet use appeared to be a determinant of both online opinion leadership and opinion seeking. Online WOM [word of mouth] is facilitated through a variety of tools such as weblogs, bulletin boards, chat rooms, discussion forums, and instant messenging. Individuals should be comfortable with these communication tools in order to spread WOM or seek information. Thus, Internet usage for music appeared to play a central role in explaining both opinion leadership and opinion seeking. This finding highlights the critical role of Internet skills/proficiency in online WOM communication. People who are inexperienced or uncomfortable with these tools may be lagging behind the current trends, isolated from the online community in the information diffusion process.

In essence this is common sense, but it helps to be reminded of it every once in a while. If you're a band - or a plumber - and want to promote your product online, you're obviously going to be a lot better at it if you have an online presence.

There are too many cases in which someone wants an online presence, and goes to hire a professional to create one. Now I don't have a problem with professionals, but it can be dangerous to hire a professional to do EVERYTHING for you. Remember what recently happened to Nadya "Octo-Mom" Suleman:

The mother-of-14's Facebook, Twitter and UStream pages were all shut down Monday after she parted ways with Gina Rodriguez....

“I fired my manager today and she’s a little upset so she shut down all my profiles online,” Nadya tells [Radar Online]....

"I’m not technologically savvy but I’ll have to now start from scratch and set up my own Facebook and Twitter as she had done all that for me.”

So Suleman apparently knew little (if anything) about the various tools, and relied on Gina Rodriguez to do everything for her. Rodriguez obviously made sure that she retained control of the properties, and therefore was able to shut them down when the contract was terminated.

Suleman would have been better off if she had learned about Facebook, Twitter, and the rest on her own, and had then hired a professional help her to improve her own accounts (rather than have someone set up accounts on her behalf).

However, with 14 kids, Suleman probably doesn't have a lot of time to teach herself Twitter...
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