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Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories, and Draw Customers

ISBN: 978-0-470-44255-5
224 pages
January 2010
Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories, and Draw Customers (0470442557) cover image


Learn to capitalize on online word of mouth, leverage its power, and measure results of your initiatives

Savvy, strategic, and right on time, Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing is the essential guide for any company or organization needing to understand the dynamics of online word of mouth. This powerful book will coach you to identify your own set of online influencers, craft the stories that will resonate with your consumers, and spread messages through cybercitizens who are social media experts.

  • Guides you to identify and engage your online influencers to manage your reputation, promote your brands, and sell your products
  • Reveals how word of mouth disperses online
  • Explores strategies for your organization to engage its online advocates, tap into networks, and to mobilize the masses
  • Explains how to design online word of mouth campaigns
  • Includes measurement tools to gauge the impact word of mouth campaigns

Filled with case studies, research, and check lists, this invaluable guide will definitively show you how to leverage the power of online advocates to pass along stories, deliver recommendations, and draw people to purchasing points.

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Table of Contents



Part I: Understanding Online Word of Mouth.

Chapter 1. The Need for Word of Mouth Information.

Trust in Media.

The Rise of Social Media.

Online Word of Mouth.

Chapter 2. The Web Advantage.

The Power Line.

The Dell Turnaround.

Thoughts on AOL.

Hoboken Online.

Transportation Security Administration. 

TSA Hears the Laughing Squid.

The Frozen Pea Fund.

Helping Earthquake Victims.

Tsunami Wikis.


Part II: Finding Networking Agents.

Chapter 3. How to Find Networking Agents.

Assessing Online Influence.






Offline Roles.


Chapter 4. Tapping Into the Power of Networking Agents.

Screening for Networking Agents.

Building Conversation Forums.

Joining Conversation Forums.


Chapter 5. Earning Networking Agents' Trust.

Accepting Reviews and Suggestions.

Being Responsive.

Providing Conversation Materials.

Addressing Problems Head On.

Being Available.


Part III: Communicating with Networking Agents.

Chapter 6. Crafting Messages for Networking Agents.

Telling a Newsworthy Story.

We Can Blend Chuck Norris and Your Shoes.

One in Six of Us Do Not Have Water.

Creating an Engaging Process.

Downloading and Touching Applications.

Running – For the Love of It.

Creating an Image Online.

Monkeying around at Work.

Offering Value.

Share Your Knowledge.

Let Networking Agents Take the Stage.

Appeal with a Cause.


Chapter 7. Reading the Message Environment.

Tapping into the Public Sentiment.

Revealing the Unknown.

Challenging Status Quo.

Infiltrating Networks.

Following the Audience.

Making It Easy to Pass Along and Share.


Chapter 8. Keeping in Touch with Networking Agents.

Need for Relationship Platforms.

Sampling through Word of Mouth Panels.

Product Development through Online Communities.

Fueling Word of Mouth on Popular Social Networks.

Creating Multiple Touch Points.

Networking on the Go.

Guidelines for Long-Term Engagement.

Ask for Permission and Create a Contact List.

Communicate with Your Networking Agents on a Regular Basis.

Solicit Feedback.

Encourage Peer-to-Peer Activity.

Celebrate Wins and Success Stories that Emerge from the Community.

Bring Utility and Deliver Value.

Commit to a Long-term Plan.


Chapter 9. Delivering on Promises to Networking Agents.

Turning Negative Buzz into Positive Buzz.

Comcast Cares.

Norton Brand Advocates.

Online Reviews Propel Sales.

Probe, Fix, and Communicate.


Part IV: Creating Online Word of Mouth Campaigns.

Chapter 10. Helping Networking Agents Spread your Messages.

Building Online Communities.

Who to Recruit?

How Many Members to Recruit?

How to Engage?

What Does Engagement Yield?

Customer Loyalty and Incremental Revenue.

New Products, Services, and Partnerships.

Conversation and Connectivity.

How to Maintain Online Communities.

What Should the Incentive Be?

How to Quantify Success.


Chapter 11. Building a Social Media Campaign.

Set up Shop and Create a Base in Social Media.

Understand What Matters to People and Acknowledge Current Events.

Update Your Content Regularly.

Stick to Your Topic of Expertise.

Inform Networks and Lead Them to Action.


Chapter 12. Measuring Reach and Impact of Online Word of Mouth.

Designing a Measurement Plan.

Before the Campaign.

During the Campaign.

After the Campaign.


Desktop Keyword Searches.

Online Monitoring Analyses.

Audience Surveys.

Web Activity Reports.






Reach Metrics.

Relevance Metrics.

Outcome Metrics.


Epilogue: The Future.

Appendix: An Assessment Worksheet.

Stating Your Mission.

Conducting Your Research.

Preparing Your Message.

Delivering Your Message.

Managing Online Relations.

Measuring Impact.


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Author Information

Idil M. Cakim is Vice President of Inter-active Media at GolinHarris, a global public relations firm. She served on the board of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, whose members include Dell, Microsoft, Hilton, Amway Global, 1-800-Flowers, and the AARP. She regularly publishes articles in business magazines and trade publications on social media and word- of-mouth strategies and has been quoted as an expert in online communications in the New York Times, the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, CNet News, the Chicago Tribune, and other media.
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Press Release

January 11, 2010
Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories, and Draw Consumers

Your company’s state-of-the-art interactive Web site, which includes all the latest bells and whistles, has been up for a couple years. You’ve been updating your company’s blog with product announcements and other company news for months. And your company CEO just released a video message on the company site, the company’s Facebook page and YouTube. The reaction from customers and other Internet aficionados, though, has been less than viral. In fact, it’s been downright nonexistent!

The problem, says Idil M. Cakim, is that today having a Facebook page, a blog, or a great Web site just isn’t enough. You have to know how to harness those social media outlets to create buzz online in order to really make a difference for your business.

            “You can’t just go through the motions,” says Cakim, author of the new book Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories, and Draw Consumers (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-44255-5, $39.95). “Publishing a blog or launching a page on a social network is no longer sufficient to reach audiences. It is unlikely that a video posted on YouTube will become an overnight sensation just because it is listed on a Web page. Posting content online may be the first step in generating word of mouth online and offline, but there are many additional steps content owners need to take to generate excitement around their news and sustain that momentum over time.”

            In her new book, Cakim teaches organizations and marketers how to do just that. The book is a comprehensive guide to designing online marketing programs that generate authentic and positive conversations. This book provides a strategic framework and practical tips to prepare, launch, and sustain online word of mouth marketing programs.    

It teaches readers how to gain the influence of web-empowered information brokers called networking agents. Online influencers who hunt for information, share stories, dive into online conversations, engage their audiences, know many people across a wide range of networks, and who can make or break a business or brand.

“To draw attention to an issue, start a public debate, or make meaningful contributions to an ongoing online conversation, companies need to act like networking agents,” says Cakim. “They need to know and understand influential cybercitizens. They need to adapt to the networking agents’ tools and tactics to create change.”

Here’s how to create word of mouth buzz (that lasts!) for your organization.

Monitor online conversations. Managing online word of mouth and its impact on a company’s reputation begins with monitoring online conversations. Before taking a stand on an issue or deciding to join a conversation, companies should understand the online landscape in their industry area. “They need to find out which topics online consumers discuss on a regular basis and the context in which Web-savvy folk mention their brands,” says Cakim. “To prepare for an effective dialogue with their online stakeholders, companies need to identify the networking agents who spearhead conversations related to their brand and the Web sites and areas where these conversations take place.”

Here’s what you need to know:

            -What are the topics of discussion in my industry area?

            -What is the tone and context in which online consumers mention my brand?

            -Who is fueling the discussions around my brand?

            -Where are these online conversations taking place?

Stay current. Enlisting networking agents to support a cause or brand requires meeting them where they are in social media and maintaining an open, authentic, and ongoing dialogue with them. “Organizations that want networking agents on their side need to find ways to introduce their brands and causes to these information brokers, solicit their feedback, provide them with the facts, answer their questions, and keep them abreast of their news,” says Cakim. “They need to keep their relationships with networking agents current to remain on the online influencers’ agenda, to earn their endorsement, and to have their fingers on the public’s pulse as they listen to conversations about their brands, products, and issues.”

Get to know networking agents. While mass marketing primarily focuses on reaching as many people as possible, online word of mouth marketing with networking agents aims to reach relevant populations that would find the concept at hand pertinent to their lifestyle.

“Be sure to assess networking agents’ level of online influence,” says Cakim. “Researchers can estimate the influence level of the networking agent by setting a mix of quantitative and qualitative criteria, including reach, relevance, authority, advocacy, and reader comments. To build a comprehensive profile of their influencers and to have a clear map of the way their audiences consume, share, and disseminate information, organizations need to understand their networking agents’ offline roles and activities as well. Organizations looking to identify their own networking agents need to determine a set of criteria that encompass traits of activism relevant to their sectors. Those who are connected in both virtual and real worlds can cascade messages across a number of circles.”

Introduce networking agents to your products or services. Upon pooling a sufficient sample of networking agents, companies can invite them to try their products or review materials about an issue or a cause. In these panels, companies can encourage networking agents to share their opinions freely, conduct research to trace how word of mouth spreads from networking agents to wider circles, and understand the impact of networking agents’ words and actions had on other consumers’ attitudes and behaviors.

“In addition to working with consumer panels to elicit and evaluate networking agents’ opinions, you might also want to build an online forum,” says Cakim. “Doing so provides networking agents and their peers with virtual meeting spots where they can congregate to gain new perspectives on a brand or issue and can discuss their thoughts and share personal reactions. These conversation forums, such as company blogs, discussion boards, and branded social networks illustrate companies’ commitment to their online stakeholders. The ongoing conversation between the company and its online audience takes their relationship much further and deeper than in a pure commercial transaction.”

Earn networking agents’ trust. To maintain strong relationships with their networking agents, companies need to keep their communication channels open, be responsive to incoming queries, and take their customers’ pulse on an ongoing basis. They need to solicit and embrace feedback, stay in touch with their valued customers who want to hear from them, and bring fast and effective solutions to those who have less than ideal experiences with their products and services.

“There are various ways companies can show they are genuinely interested in hearing from their customers,” says Cakim. “Some companies conduct surveys among customers on a regular basis to get candid feedback about their products and services. Others offer fact sheets, FAQs, online press rooms, etc., to inform networking agents, improve their customer experience, and become part of their conversations. In earning and maintaining networking agents’ trust, organizations must respond to their queries promptly. They must show empathy, expertise, and professionalism in handling their questions and in communicating that the company is working to bring solutions to their problems.”

Help networking agents tell a compelling story. Networking agents are most likely to pass along messages that help tell an untold story and that offer counterintuitive facts. They confirm their newsmaker and influencer status by breaking news about new products and services that their friends must try, about places they must visit, and about activities they would profit from or enjoy. Help your networking agents tell a compelling story. A startling statistic, a performance video, photographs from a personal journey, or insights on a social issue are among the types of intriguing messages networking agents would want to add to their knowledge bank. Regardless of type and format, the core of a message should be easy to understand and should allow networking agents and their peers to repeat and pass along. The message plays a critical role in conveying the value proposition. 

“Remember, for networking agents, being in the know is akin to being rich in knowledge,” says Cakim. “If they can make a difference in the way others lead their lives, they can boost their credibility and reinstate their status as part of the knowledge elite. Those who have a newsworthy story to share with networking agents can galvanize word of mouth by highlighting the value of proposition in their messages and calls to action.”

Don’t ignore disgruntled networking agents. Networking agents are like consumer watchdogs. They make their demands known and they expect to hear back. Companies that deliver on their promises and fix problems receive high marks from these customer advocates. However, if the company leaves questions unanswered or fails to meet their needs, they let others hear their voices. In those cases, they cast their vote of disapproval, advising others not to buy the product. Since they are highly regarded as knowledgeable people who are attuned to the latest trends, their peers pay attention. In these instances, dissatisfied networking agents turn off many potential customers and brand aficionados. Thus, to grow their business, organizations need to deliver on their promises and earn networking agents’ approval.

“Don’t try to avoid negative comments from networking agents,” advises Cakim. “When companies do not hear their customers’ complaints, they put their reputation and stock at risk. Fearing negative comments, claiming that they are not representative of the overall customer sentiment, and turning a blind eye to them do not help. Companies need to hear what networking agents have to say. They need to seize the opportunity to improve customer service and salvage their brands’ reputation.”

Build online communities. One way to draw networking agents’ attention is to invite them to and host Web communities where they can mingle with like-minded people and speak directly with brands. Short-term goals and budget pressures force marketers to focus on single events and narrow periods when speaking with their audiences. Yet investing in online spaces where they can keep communicating with their constituents can yield multiple benefits and prove to be an ongoing source of growth. Networking agent communities can live on the brand’s Web site, in an area where visitors can sign up to become members and join the conversation with the company and their peers. Companies can build dedicated Web sites where their online constituents can gather information, learn best practices from other visitors, and participate in live discussions. 

“Plan for weekly online activities to keep your community alive,” says Cakim. “Keep the dialogue going through polls, contests, and online events. Create a discussion calendar with evergreen topics, in case community discussions wane. Appoint community moderators and brand representatives who have the time and skills to initiate activities and sustain conversations.”

Measure your success. As social media matures, the need to measure online word of mouth and demonstrate success becomes indisputable. “A comprehensive measurement plan should consist of three parts—gauging the audiences’ reactions to the brand before, during, and after the campaign,” says Cakim. “The first step in measuring online word of mouth is to listen and monitor audience chatter across blogs, forums, and social networks. This effort helps uncover existing issues, attitudes, and behaviors. It marks the starting point for a campaign. The second step requires tracking the campaign’s progress and studying the interaction between the message senders and receivers. During this phase, marketers can take note of attitudinal and behavioral changes among their target audience. The third step involves comparing final campaign results with benchmark scores to demonstrate the momentum and change the campaign generated. Remember, sales do not have to be the only outcome of an online word of mouth campaign. You should also gauge changes in buzz levels, sentiments, and intentions to recommend.”

“Those who can act as networking agents and harness the Internet’s power in connecting people with resources will be tomorrow’s success stories,” says Cakim. “To harness the power of word of mouth, organizations need to be part of consumer conversations. They need to be prepared for a future where differences between online and face-to-face conversations dissolve and consumers rely on Web-based information sources with as much ease and trust as they do offline sources.

“To be a leader in today’s chaotic communication landscape and to be ready for the future, organizations need to identify and understand those who use the Web effectively to spread their opinions, make their own news, and shake up established institutions.”

About the Book

Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories, and Draw Consumers (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-44255-5, $39.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.


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