Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Special Topics Course On Word-of-Mouth, Buzz, and Viral Marketing Communication

I am excited to announce that I will be teaching a special topics course entitled "Word-of-Mouth, Buzz, and Viral Marketing Communication" at Northeastern University in the Department of Communication Studies, first summer session (May and June 2006).

To support the teaching of this course, and learning about WOM, buzz, and viral marketing more generally, I have created a new blog. The "Word-of-Mouth Communication Study" blog will still be my primary blog on WOM, but posts related to that class specifically, and educational efforts regarding WOM, more broadly, will be on the new blog.

Here is the course description:

CMNU914 -- Special Topics in Organizational Communication: Word-of-Mouth, Buzz, and Viral Marketing Communication

Have you ever loved a company, product, or idea so much that you couldn’t wait to tell others about it? Seen a horrible movie lately and told your friends not to go? Tried a new type of food because a friend suggested it? Heard a story about a town that named themselves after a start-up internet company? Passed along an e-mail about a funky chicken you can command at your will? Posted or read an online review to a consumer website? If you answered yes to any of these questions you engaged in word-of-mouth communication and may have also wittingly or unwittingly participated in an organized word-of-mouth, buzz, or viral marketing campaign.

Word-of-mouth, buzz, and viral marketing is a hot topic now as organizations of all kinds – for-profits, not-for-profits, academic institutions, you name it – struggle to break through a mediascape cluttered with advertisements, deal with a growing distrust of corporate-affiliated messages, figure out a consumer market that demands greater control and engagement, and try to understand how new communication technologies amplify peer-to-peer communication and influence, both in the online and offline worlds.

The purpose of this course is to introduce advanced undergraduate students to the word-of-mouth, buzz, and viral marketing industry. Students will learn about the theories and practices that inform this industry through readings of popular press books and academic journal articles, guest lectures from leading industry figures, analysis of existing word-of-mouth, buzz, and viral marketing campaigns, analysis of key companies operating in the word-of-mouth space, and learning industry best practices in designing, executing, and measuring organizationally-facilitated attempts to manage word-of-mouth and consumer generated media.

Specific topics include:

· Terminology issues: distinguishing word-of-mouth, buzz, and viral from other marketing and advertising practices
· Similarities and differences between organic (everyday) and amplified (institutionally-facilitated or sponsored) word-of-mouth.
· Historical overview of academic research on word-of-mouth
· How peer influence works. Are there really a small, select group of people who lead the rest of the population’s opinions? What is the role of relationship networks?
· Tracking online and offline word-of-mouth
· Metrics used to measure word-of-mouth and determine ROI
· How to build principles of effective word-of-mouth into business practices
· Emergence of the word-of-mouth industry associations
· Ethical controversies surrounding the industry: commercialization of chit-chat, undercover and stealth marketing, shilling

Pre-Requisites: Middler-year and above