Monday, November 05, 2007

How Likely Would You Be To Recommend Net Promoter for WOM Research?

This is the question we are posing at the WOMMA Research Symposium in Las Vegas on 13 November. I wanted to plug this event at the Symposium in particular on my blog given all the discussions and controversy surrounding the net promoter score and discipline.

For example, over on the Attentio blog Bert Van Wassenhove commented that it was hard to know whose research to trust on this matter and asked: "Can somebody set up a debate between the two opponents so they can discuss at length. Make it a (video)Podcast so there is no time limit at all.”

I am a co-chair on the Research & Metrics Council for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and we have set up a panel for precisely this kind of discussion. Rather than a debate between two opponents we broadened the panel to include some other voices. You can view the agenda here.

Confirmed speakers are Deborah Eastman from Satmetrix; Tim Keiningham from Ipsos-Loyalty; and Matt McGlinn at BzzAgent. We’ll also be having a speaker who has used the net promoter approach in their company.

Given the interest in this topic I’ve asked WOMMA to make the audio recording available on their website after the event, which they agreed to do.

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My Presentation at UGA Connect 2007


The good people at UGA have uploaded my presentation at the Connect conference to Slide Share. Be sure to check out the other presentations from the PR and social media conference, including Kevin Dugan's keynote on the opening night and Dr. Robert Sprague's talk on the legal issues surrounding WOM and social media.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Is Twitter Better for Live Blogging of an Event?

Compare the Connect blog to the Flicker tweets feed. Which gives better live coverage of the event?

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Constantin Basturea on Social Media

Constantin contends that many companies are still in the "I Want" stage. They see a story about blogging and say "I want blogging."

Constantin remarks on the Dell story that recently appears in Business Week and how they have become a success story. One point he raised is that it took a year from when they first realized people were talking about them in the blogosphere to do outreach, get a blog up and running, and start to change their business practices. He feels that companies need to have realistic expectations about what it takes to get to make a change and that it may not happen at the fast-paced speed of the blogosphere, for example.


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KD Paine on Social Media Measurement

A few quotations from KD's talk:

There is no market for your message. Does it matter that you reached eyeballs? Or does it matter that you engaged people in a conversation?

Spin is dead. Long live transparency. If you want to increase trust, increase your transparency.

ROI doesn't mean what it used to. If you're just measuring hits then you're in trouble (HITS = How Idiots Track Success). Measure what people are doing with the content you provide.

KD is suggestion people look at Forrester's approach to engagement: Involvement, Interaction, Intimacy, and Influence.

KD is also working on a transparency index, which is a combination of what you disclose because you have to, because you want to, and because it's the right thing to do.

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Josh Hallett on Social Media

A couple quotations from Josh Hallet on Social Media:

"Technology will never replace people. People who use technology will replace people who don't."

"When hiring for their last position at Josh's PR agency the decision to hire the candidate was based on how well they used social media, specifically how the candidate used Facebook to promote events for her sorority."

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Live from Athens! (Georgia, that is)

In Athens at the University of Georgia for the Connect Public Relations and Social Media Conference.

The conference kicked off last night with Kevin Dugan talking about the new world of social media and the opportunities, and potential dark side, it presents for PR professionals. His talk was titled "We>Me" and did a nice job to set up some of the core issues with social media: transparency, human connection, having clear goals for working with social media technologies rather than just the "shiny tools" themselves. He also asked us to consider "what is content?" -- PR traditionally considers just "text" as content but he feels it's much broader including audio, video, links, comments, etc.

I speak at 10:30 am on "Organizing for Conversation: What Research Needs to Tell Us". I will discuss my four phase model of conversational engagement which focuses on how organizations come to understand what it means to "join in the conversation".

Here are the official social media venues: conference blog, Flickr pics, and Twitter feeds.

Should be fun!

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is Ford's "Swap Your Ride" Program an Example of Stealth Marketing?

I've noticed the Ford commercials where everyday car drivers were able to swap their non-Ford cars with a Ford vehicle for one week so that they could experience what the Ford vehicle was like. In the commercial, and on the Swap Your Ride's website, Ford was very up front that they didn't tell the people whose cars were swapped that the camera crews were from Ford and instead told them they were doing "market research" (if you watch the "Behind the Scenes" video at the website they justify doing this because Ford wanted the drivers' honest opinions). Ford videotaped each person's experience and promoted these stories in the commercial and on the website, again without telling the people the film crews were from Ford.

In order to actually make the commercial or put these people's stories on the website I'm sure Ford had to secure the people's permissions and at that time they must have found out Ford was behind this. So it seems like we have an example of "delayed disclosure" going on here.

This makes a great case study for one of my classes. Here's a question I would pose to my students: Is the Ford "Swap Your Ride" program an example of stealth, or undercover, marketing? And if so, is this unethical? First, a definition. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) defines stealth marketing as: "Any practice designed to deceive people about the involvement of marketers in a communication."

Second, we need a set of criteria to work with. Let's use WOMMA's Honesty ROI guidelines to briefly work through this case. Why is this an appropriate set of guidelines? Is this a WOM marketing program, and if so, how? I would contend it is because the marketer is using stories or testimonials from everyday people about their product-related experiences in order to engage an audience and promote their brand.

Of the honesty of relationship, opinion, and identity, it seems that this program initially fails on the first but is OK on the second and third. Specifically, Ford didn't have its crew disclose the fact that they were working for Ford and instead said they were market researchers (violates honesty of relationship). The people in the video seemed to be real people (that is, not actors or employees of the company, or otherwise paid or compensated beyond getting the chance to drive a new car around for a week; so honesty of identity seems OK here). And these real people seem to be providing their own unscripted, honest assessments (honesty of opinion; though it's clear the comments were edited and we have no access to any negative comments anyone might have said). Interestingly the video on the website uses the language of "Real people. Real opinions." which supports the analysis so far.

So, according to WOMMA's Honesty ROI ethical framework, this really comes down to an issue of disclosure of the marketer's relationship. There was an intent to deceive but it was justified on the grounds of soliciting people's honest opinion. And Ford came clean about it to the larger audience in their commercial and in the video. (Interestingly, this deceit is also carried out in academic research, as long as the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs, that the disclosure eventually occurs, and that no one gets hurt in the process.)

So, let's think about if anyone got hurt here. The drivers are getting to drive around in a new car for a week and show it off to their friends which juices their sense of being special. There could be a feeling of being "duped" and there may have been some backlash. And this may have had the effect of undermining credibility in marketing activities or making it that much more difficult for real market researchers to do their work (see the Market Research Society's Code of Conduct for interesting thoughts on this; of course the people doing the commercial aren't actually market researchers so they wouldn't be bound by such guidelines).

Ford must have done all their legal due diligence about the deception. It's probably legal since the larger audience in the commercial or video was informed that Ford was deceiving people for the purposes of filming the videos. It seems that it comes down to the following: in what situations is "delayed disclosure" (un)ethical*? Is disclosure a black or white issue or are there shades of gray? And does the WOMMA Honesty ROI or The Ethics 20 Questions give us the tools to make this decision?

What do you think?

* The issue of delayed disclosure is addressed by Justin Foxton in the book Connected Marketing (chapter titled "Live buzz marketing") so interested readers can also turn there.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Executive Preview for "Measuring the Ripple" Now Available!

I am pleased to announce my latest research on word of mouth marketing communication. This is from research that has been over a year in the making and is the result of an important academic-industry collaboration.

Due to publication restrictions I am unable to release the full report, which will actually be a co-authored piece to appear in the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's Measuring Word of Mouth, Volume 3 research book in November 2007, so I wanted to make available the following executive preview.

You can read the executive preview here in this post, but I recommend that you download the PDF version at my download page as it is more comprehensive. The last academic-industry research report I released on my blog, the "To Tell Or Not To Tell?" report on the role of disclosure in organized word of mouth marketing programs, generated a great deal of commentary from readers so I invite the same level of thoughtful discourse regarding this piece.

Finally, this line of research has been especially important to my work in the word of mouth space, not only for subsequent academic publication on the topic, but also because it has led to the formation of a new company, called ChatThreads, an independent word of mouth research company that derives actionable insights from how word of mouth communication spreads among individuals and social networks (but more on that later).

Without further ado, I give you the...

Executive Preview for “Measuring the Ripple: Creating the G2X Relay Rate and an Industry Standard Methodology to Measure the Spread of Word of Mouth Conversations and Marketing-Relevant Outcomes” [Download this as a PDF]

From the childhood game of telephone, and our personal experience with rumor and gossip, we are all familiar with the idea that word of mouth (WOM) spreads from person to person. We have also heard that WOM spreads in multiples from one generation, or degree of separation, to the next – one person tells two people who tell four who tell eight, and on and on it goes. And then there are those instances where the buzz about a product, service, or idea seems to explode exponentially. When you add in the fact that peer-to-peer conversations and recommendations are among the most trusted forms of communication, it is no surprise that many marketers find word of mouth initiatives a compelling proposition. But childhood games, folk wisdom, and alluring anecdotes aside, how do we really know how far marketing-relevant conversations spread, and the impact of those conversations? And what data exist to help marketers set norms and benchmarks?

To answer these questions, Northeastern University collaborated with a leading word of mouth media platform, BzzAgent, Inc., to develop an industry-standard methodology that reliably tracks the spread and impact of peer-to-peer conversations over time and across both offline and online channels. The methodology has been developed and refined for marketing campaigns across a range of product and service categories – from beverages to books, food to pharmaceuticals, and personal care to paints – allowing for the development of category-specific and third-party validated norms and benchmarks.

In the context of this methodology, a participant in a WOM marketing program will be described as a Generation Zero or “G0” Program Participant. The first set of conversational partners with whom this program participant speaks will be described as a G1 conversational partner. The people with whom they speak will be described as G2 conversational partners and so on, all the way out to GX. Thus, the provisional name for this methodology is the “Generational Relay to X” WOM Tracking Methodology, or “G2X.” See the Glossary for more details.

Key findings from studies using this methodology include:

o Previous research underestimated the relay rate (the number of people told at each generation, or degree of separation, from the initial source) by not taking into account how conversations continue to spread over time. Existing research by Northeastern University established a Generation 2 (or G2) relay rate of 1.65 for the number of new people told after a person had a brand-related conversation with a Program Participant in a marketing campaign. By investigating if people continue to have conversations about the product or service over an additional six weeks, the relay rate for campaigns represented in this research can be revised to 4.14 (that is, a person who talked with someone participating in a WOM marketing program told 4.14 other people about the product, on average, during a six week period of time).

o While a majority of the participants in the study (78%) had at least one additional conversation during the course of the six-week extended period, researchers observed a noticeable decay in the number of people those participants told over time. The decay rate was as follows: in the first two days after the initial conversation with the person participating in the marketing program, the “conversational partner” reported telling 1.43 other people, on average. During the next time period, one week after the initial report, conversational partners reported telling an additional 1.38 people about the brand. Three weeks from the first report, 0.76 new people were told about the brand. Six weeks after the initial report, 0.57 new people were told. Twenty-two percent (22%) of the people reported no additional conversations after the initial conversation with the person participating in the WOM marketing program.

o Researchers discovered that it is possible to reliably measure the reach and impact of WOM marketing initiatives across a range of product and service categories, which is an important first step in creating industry standard norms. Relay rates, and other key performance indicators, like awareness, trial, and purchase intentions and behaviors, can be measured on a campaign-specific basis, as well as across campaigns, so that managers can determine campaign effectiveness relative to benchmark data.

o Similarly, the reach and impact of WOM marketing programs can be independently measured and validated by a third-party. This opens the door for industry-wide third-party measurement that is seen in more mature media industries like radio, TV, and print.

o By using dyadic (two-person) or multi-party measurement designs researchers demonstrated how it is possible to validate each person’s self-report about conversational details and the impact of those conversations, thus overcoming a traditional limitation of self-report data. For example, in the case of a campaign for an electronic personal care product, WOM program participants reported that slightly more people participated in a conversation than their conversational partner peers (i.e., 1.83 versus 1.55 other people, a difference of 0.28). However, this difference was not statistically significant. Since results vary from campaign to campaign, managers can use this methodology to determine if there are statistically significant discrepancies in self-reported data (whether there is over- or under-reporting), and revise relay rates or other key performance indicator values accordingly.

o In addition to quantitative reach, the methodology developed can also provide rich, qualitative insight into how people engage in brand-related conversations. By looking at the locations where conversations occur, the activities in which people are engaged while talking, the medium used (face-to-face, phone, e-mail, IM, blog, message board, etc.), and references to other media forms (like ads, editorials, and in-store promotions), managers can gain actionable insights into developing and refining subsequent marketing campaigns.

Results from the first set of studies are scheduled to appear as a co-authored paper with BzzAgent, Inc. in the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Measuring Word of Mouth, Volume 3 research book, to be released in mid-November 2007. The full manuscript will provide detailed information regarding the methodology and demonstrate how it was utilized to independently validate the effectiveness of an actual WOM marketing campaign.

Funding for this research was provided as part of a Sponsored Research Agreement (SRA-0667) between Northeastern University and BzzAgent, Inc.

Download a PDF version of this executive preview.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Continued Discussion on Net Promoter Score

In my long absence from posting (over a month!) there have been some great discussions about the Net Promoter Score. Be sure to see some of the comments to my last post where Amy Madsen and Deb Eastman from Satmetrix have weighed in, Tim Keiningham from Ipsos-Loyalty (and author of some recent academic articles critiquing the Net Promoter Score), and Justin Kirby, who has blogging and conducting podcast interviews about the debate.

Additionally a new article on the topic, also written by Tim Keiningham and colleagues, has appeared in Managing Service Quality entitled The value of different customer satisfaction and loyalty metrics in predicting customer retention, recommendation, and share-of-wallet. This article is more of a micro-level, or customer-level, analysis and worth reading.


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Monday, June 25, 2007

More Trouble for Net Promoter Score? A Longitudinal Examination of 'Net Promoter' on Firm Revenue Growth

The latest critique of the Net Promoter Score is now available for free download from the Journal of Marketing. The article is titled "A Longitudinal Examination of 'Net Promoter' on Firm Revenue Growth" and written by Timothy L. Keiningham, Bruce Cooil, Tor Wallin Andreassen and Lerzan Aksoy.

I wrote about this article in an earlier post (one of many in a series on the Net Promoter Score topic). Although there are still some differences in methodology (like slightly different wording for the likelihood to recommend question and different time periods used in the analysis) this study is the closest to an apple-to-apples comparison between the net promoter score and satisfaction and loyalty indicators.

Here's the abstract:

Managers have widely embraced and adopted the Net Promoter metric, which noted loyalty consultant Frederick Reichheld advocates as the single most reliable indicator of firm growth compared with other loyalty metrics, such as customer satisfaction and retention. Recently, however, there has been considerable debate about whether this metric is truly superior. This article (1) employs longitudinal data from 21 firms and 15,500-plus interviews from the Norwegian Customer Satisfaction Barometer to replicate the analyses used in Net Promoter research and (2) compares Reichheld and colleagues' findings with the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Using industries Reichheld cites as exemplars of Net Promoter, the research fails to replicate his assertions regarding the “clear superiority” of Net Promoter compared with other measures in those industries.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bon Nuit Geneve

I just had a wonderful experience in Geneva, Switzerland where I spoke at the Marketing and Direct Focus Europe 2007 conference hosted by Baptie and Company. I gave the keynote address on the second day which is traditionally reserved for an academic offering her/his view on the state of marketing (thanks to Paul Marsden for the referral). This conference was focused on the B2B sector, and specifically the technology industry. I feel like I contributed a lot to the conference -- I spoke on the implications of Web 2.0 to companies and the four phase model of conversational marketing that I've been developing (oblivious, monitoring, listening and responding, and joining in) -- but ultimately I feel like I took away more than I contributed.

The people there were incredibly smart, representing marketing professionals for many of the large and middle-sized tech firms in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Attendees included Google, Microsoft, HP, Siemens, Alcatel-Lucent, and Oracle just to name a few of the larger firms.

The Chatham House Rule applied to the workshops and presentations -- which is the UK version of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" -- so I won't go into a lot of the details about what the main themes and take-aways were. However, I will comment on my reflections for how Web 2.0 played out at the conference.

I found that many companies were focusing on Web 2.0 and the implications to their business. This is quite understandable and happens anytime something as powerful as this cultural shift comes along. However, I couldn't help but think that people were focusing too much on how to leverage Web 2.0 technologies, like Second Life, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc., without a clear articulation of WHY they would even want to leverage them. That is, I think it's more productive to START WITH the goals they would like to accomplish, and then think of the range of ways these goals could be accomplished, perhaps including Web 2.0 technologies and perhaps not. It's a subtle, but I think important point.

As I mentioned above, I found this conference extremely valuable for my understanding of the B2B tech sector in Europe and the people extremely pleasant. People were genuine and willing to share their own insights with others. It was a wonderful experience. Thanks to Rod Baptie and crew for their incredible efforts at organizing this conference. I look forward to the opportunity to participate in such an event again!

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Friday, June 08, 2007

New Media Summit 2007 Resources

Well, the folks at Edelman and PRWeek outdid themselves in putting on an informative and interactive conference on the implications of social media for the communication industry (esp. PR and journalism) and educating current students.

I started blogging during the event (see my last post) but was unable to keep up with all that was going on. Fortunately, the organizers taped everything and posted it on its New Media Summit 2007 website. I understand that summaries and/or transcripts of the sessions will also be available. These will make for great teaching tools as well. (Hopefully Edelman will leave this site up for a while or enable educators to load the videos on to faculty members' course management systems for when we teach classes).

A consistent theme for the conference was the following observation offered initially in the opening panel last night:

People have a tendency to overestimate the short-term consequences of the new social media technologies, and underestimate the long-term consequences.
Clearly, we're still in the early days of these consequences and it's an exciting time to be researching and teaching in this space.

It's hard to say which was the best panel of the day, but if you are going to view just one or two of them, I would pick the "Co-creating Content" panel or the "What's Next for New Media" panel. On the Co-creating Content panel I really enjoyed hearing from the Zagats because they talked about how they were involved in customer reviews and co-creation many years ago when first starting their Zagats guides. Plus, some of the jokes from Bob Mankoff were very, very funny (even more amusing were Jackie Price's attempts to reign him in and keep the panel on topic -- eventually even she had to give in to his wit; by the way, if you want to learn how to do an excellent job of transitioning between speakers as a moderator watch how Jackie did this -- they were seamless!).

Of course, you can watch my panel session as well ("Enabling the Digital Generation"). Having the chance to participate with David Weinberger and Merrill Brown was a pleasure!

Anyhow, enjoy the videos and thanks again to Edelman!








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Live from New York, It's Friday Morning at the New Media Academic Summit

Blogging today from the Harvard Club on 44th street in the Big Apple at the Edelman New Media Academic Summit. The first panel was about engaging consumers through social networks. Panelists include Scott Donaton (Publisher of Advertising Age), Babs Rangaiah (Director, Media & Entertainment, Unilever USA), Scott Heiferman (co-founder and CEO of Meetup), and moderated by Pam Talbot (President and CEO, Edelman US).

Babs talked about the Axe, Dove, and Whisk initiatives. For the Whisk laundry detergent campaign he talked about where people were able to upload their own photos of kids being dirty and place them on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Then people had the ability to print this picture as well as forward an e-version to other people. A key take-away for me from what he had to say was the following quotation: "Build the brand in a way that makes customers want to play." This is a key point because it's about providing tools and resources that give people sufficient flexibility to do things that are relevant to their lives.

Scott Donaton from Advertising Age talked about how he sees the challenge as moving from an intrusion model to an invitational model for marketing and advertising. A key point here is figuring out what elicits the invitation. A first answer to this question that he provided was "relevancy". The invitational model forces companies to come up with something useful and relevant to people's lives that make those people want to invite the brand in.

Scott Heiferman from Meetup anticipates a backlash from people living their lives too much in front of screens and feels there is tremendous power of offline networks of people who can use Meetup to help "organize people" (as distinct from Google's motto of "organizing information"). He explained how Meetup groups are locally organized and are built around shared interests. For example, in New York City dog lovers are organized by sections of New York and by dog breeds (for example, doxon lovers on the upper East side). On their own, the organizers of each of these Meetup groups banded together and went to retailers who specialized in dog products and services (like Doggie Day Care) and made a proposal. They basically said that if the retailers would provide a discount for their Meetup members, then the Meetup members would promote those retailers among their social networks. I found this to be an interesting idea of people initiating interactions and inviting companies in based on what was relevant to themselves (and, coincidentally, mutually beneficial to the company as well).

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

New Media Acadmic Summit 2007

I'm very excited to announce that I will be participating on a panel at the New Media Academic Summit 2007 in New York City next week. It's hosted by Edelman and PRWeek is the media partner.

As stated on the summit website, the summit will...

...convene business leaders, academics, journalists, bloggers and communications professionals to discuss the challenges facing universities in preparing the next generation of graduates.
The agenda is terrific and includes such topics as:
The Changing Media Landscape
Engaging Consumers Through Social Networks
Co-Creating Content
Building Corporate Reputation from the Inside Out
Advocacy and Grassroots Engagement
The Era of Citizen Journalism
Ethics and Rules of Engagement in New Media
Enabling the Digital Generation
What's Next for New Media
I'll be on the "Enabling the Digital Generation" panel which is billed as a "brainstorming session [that] looks at the digital Q of college graduates and expectations employers have of a college graduate’s digital knowledge." My co-panelists are David Weinberger from Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and John Edelman, Managing Director of Global Human Resources at Edelman.

There look to be about 80 participants from a number of leading academic programs across the country. I'm told they will be webcasting each session so be sure to check it out!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Viral Marketing for the Real World and The Theory of Big Seed Marketing -- A Critique

Ok, I've been away for a while but I thought a good post to resume with would be to review a recent article on the theory of "big seed marketing" written by Professor Duncan Watts, Jonah Peretti, and Michael Frumin. A version of this appeared in the Harvard Business Review, but my critique will focus on the version available at the Columbia University web site (which provides more detailed results and is referenced in the HBR article).

First, let me provide a quick summary of the article's main points, and then I'll discuss what the "news" is here, why this article could be helpful to organizations wanting to better understand marketing communication, and three limitations of the article.

Let's start with the summary:

The authors start by pointing out that viral marketing is seductive and often presented as a panacea: you just need to pick a small number of people to seed an idea and watch it go "viral"; oh, and by the way, all of this can be done on a small budget.

But, the authors caution, for as many viral marketing successes out there, there are just as many, if not more, failures. It's just plain hard to consistently create media that will "take off".

The alternative, the authors contend, is Big Seed Marketing (which I'll abbreviate as BSM). BSM "combines viral marketing tools with old-fashioned mass media in a new and creative way." Its purported benefits are risk-reduction and greater predictability than just viral approaches.

To explain BSM they start with a distinction between mass marketing and viral marketing. Mass marketing can be summarized by the formula n = pN, where n is the number of conversions (positive behaviors or attitude formation, such as purchasing product or forming a favorable impression), p is the probability that exposure to a the ad will result in a conversion, and N = the number of people exposed to the ad. To get more conversions, a company either increases the number of people to which they expose the message, or increase the probability of conversion (for example, by making a better -- more informative, interesting, memorable, etc. -- message).

In contrast, viral marketing starts with a small number of seeds who will then share the message with their friends, who will then share with their friends, etc. (I'll discuss below how this definition actually conflates "influencer marketing" and "viral marketing", but we'll work with this definition for now). Expressed as a formula, viral marketing is R=Bz. R is the "reproduction rate," or the rate at which new converts are generated from existing ones. B is the probability that a WOM transmission occurs (which can be based on a number of factors, including the number of times a person needs to hear a message before passing it on, memory, etc.) and z is the number of people told.

The whole theory of viral marketing is based on epidemiology, or the study of how diseases spread (or don't spread) throughout a population. If the reproduction rate of a disease is greater than one (R > 1), more and more people are infected at each generation, or degree, removed from the initial person infected, and the disease spreads. If less than one, the disease eventually peters out over time because fewer than one person at each degree is infected. Applied to marketing, a reproduction rate greater that one means that more than one other person, on average, is told (R > 1). If that reproduction rate continues at each subsequent generation, then an idea will go "viral" because one person tells more than one person who tells more than one person, etc.. If R < 1, then the message will decay, over time. R = 1 is the threshold; anything above 1 and the message will spread over time, while anything below 1 and the message will decay over time.

But the authors point out a "fundamental flaw" when applying the viral analogy to marketing -- specifically, diseases, unlike many large organizations, don't have have the resources to use the mass media as a way of seeding the message to large numbers of people.

So, the idea of BSM is to start the message with a large number of people and provide tools for people to share the message with others. Even if the reproduction rate is less than 1 (again, meaning that the person who experiences the message passes it on to less than one person on average), a large number of people will still be reached as the message will take a while to decay).

The authors present examples from different campaigns (for a gun control initiative, the Katrina Benefit, P&G's Tide Coldwater Challenge, and an advertising campaign that built in pass-along functionality). Each campaign reached more people than it would have by providing some type of technology platform that allowed people who initially experienced the message to share it with others.

OK, there's my summary. So, what's the news here as it applies to marketing communication?

First, the article is helpful to the extent that it reveals the limitations of viral marketing as an analogy -- companies and diseases are different. Companies can start their story with a lot of people, or a small group of people, while diseases typically start with one person and then spread to others.

Second, the article offers a metric -- the reproduction rate -- that can be used when quantifying and reporting the reach of a marketing program.

Third, the article presents interesting examples of companies using technology platforms that helps to amplify the spread of a message. One of these, which I would encourage people to learn more about, is ForwardTrack. This platform augments tell-a-friend functionality by incorporating geographic and social network tracking. The platform tracks the spread of messages from one person to the next and maps it, with the idea being that if a person can see the impact they are having on the spread of the campaign they will be more likely to increase their involvement. There are some important limitations to be aware of with ForwardTrack (for example, it tracks forwarding of messages only in an online environment, and not the content of what's said or other potentially rich details about the WOM episode), but it has a number of promising applications. I'll likely discuss more about this in a future post.

Why would this article or theory be helpful to organizations wanting to better understand marketing communication?

First, it shows how organizations can combine older and newer media to maximize the reach of their marketing initiatives. This is important because organizations shouldn't feel like they have to through the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

Second, it provides one way for companies to measure the relative value of their marketing initiatives using quantitatively.

Third, it offers solid evidence that organizations, especially large companies with considerable resources, can limit their risk associated with a marketing initiative by starting with a large number of initial seeds.

What are some of the limitations of this article or theory?

First, the article seems to conflate two types of WOM marketing strategies: influencer marketing (starting with a small, select group of individuals with certain characteristics) and viral marketing (creating informative, entertaining, or otherwise engaging messages or experiences designed to be passed along to others, often via online means). See definitions provided by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. According to these definitions, there's no reason why you can't use a viral marketing strategy and start with a lot of seeds. In fact, this is one way companies who want to use viral marketing strategies can reduce their risk -- seed the experience with more people. Further, the authors don't present evidence, at least in this paper, that starting with certain people who may be more well connected or have other characteristics (popularly known as "influencers"), might generate higher reproduction rates (though see Watts' work on "accidental influentials").

Second, I worry about the "uptake" of this article and theory by companies. Here's what I mean: depending on your philosophy of WOM marketing, "big seed marketing" could be considered a relatively "conservative" approach. That is, it seems to assume the best way to engage people is through a consistent message sent to large audiences. It would be an unfortunate result if companies came away thinking, "Phew, thank goodness! Now that I see these numbers I realize we can just proceed with business as usual but with a little twist: we'll keep creating advertisements, add some cool new tell-a-friend functionality, and we're set. We've now figured out this whole web 2.0, empowered consumer, networked world idea." Now, please don't misunderstand. I'm not implying that the authors of this article think this way or intended this. My point is that I think this is one prominent way this article will LIKELY be taken up and discussed in MANY companies. And if so, it would be a shame, because it misses out on the importance of more interactive ways of engagement between companies and their stakeholders: dialogue, listening, co-innovation, etc.

Third, and this is a more technical point, I question the value of reporting the reproduction rate as a final, or total value, rather than at each degree (see Table 1 and Table 2 in the article). Remember, the reproduction rate (R) is the number of new people converted based on existing people. So, rather than saying the reproduction rate for the whole campaign was x, I think it's more valuable to say the reproduction rate between the first degree seed to the second degree person was x. The better value to report as a total value is the "gain," or the multiple of new people reached (so, a "gain" of 2.0 means that if you started with 10,000 people, you reached 20,000). The authors do report the gain as a final value, but the confusing part is why the R is computed as a final value.

I corresponded with Professor Watts via e-mail about this point and learned the reason R was computed as a final value, rather than at each degree or generation, is due to the simplifying assumptions made in the paper (which, to their credit, the authors explicitly point out). One of the simplifying assumptions was that they assume the reproduction rate is constant across each degree of separation from the initial source (though, to their credit, they point out ways to make this more realistic). Further, they knew they were dealing with cases where the reproduction rate was under 1 at each generation anyway. But where this became confusing is that it makes it appear as though the formula for computing R is as follows:

Final R Value = "Bonus" Number of New People Reached/Total Reached (whereas a different formula for computing R [R = Bz ] was used earlier in the manuscript).
That is, the number of additional people reached due to the pass-along/viral effect divided by the total number reached. When computing it this way the final R will always be less than 1 (because you can never reach an additional amount more than the total amount since the total amount is computed by adding the initial number of seeds and the number of new people gained). I would suggest that further research computes the reproduction rate at each distinct degree of separation from the source, and not as a final value. I'll have more to say on this point in a future post.

OK, in sum,I definitely recommend that people read this article, but hopefully keeping in mind what I see as some of the limitations. I'd love to hear what anyone else's thoughts are about the article and their theory.

Also, as a teaser, I'll be reporting some really interesting research soon that will be even more interesting when considered in light of the Watts et al. article. More to come!

Thanks to Professor Watts for his generosity in responding to my inquiries!


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Reflecting on Your Own Word of Mouth Communication Practices

I'd like to draw attention to some of the work my undergraduate students have been doing here at Northeastern.

As part of a class assignment I asked students to record, via a web-based survey, three conversations they had about an organization, brand, product, or service. They then wrote a 500-word essay about any patterns they noticed in their own WOM communication practices.

I have received permission from each of the students to post their brief essays (in alphabetical order):

Kait Falconer
Andrea Manners
Anne McGrath
Holly Jackson
Taslim Sidi
Feel free to comment on their essays!

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Interview with Publicity Club of New England

A few weeks ago, myself, Dave Balter (BzzAgent), Lois Kelly (Foghound), and Jim Nail (Cymfony) participated on a panel about word of mouth, buzz, and viral marketing for the Publicity Club of New England (moderated by Laura Tomasetti of 360 Public Relations). As a follow-up to that panel I was interviewed for their newsletter, the Bellringer, by Lindsay Flaherty of Solomon McCown & Company, Inc.

Here's the link to the article in their newsletter. Due to space constraints Lindsay had to shorten some of my responses so I've included my full responses below:

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How has WOM marketing changed the way we communicate?

It's probably easiest to start with a definition of WOM marketing as communication about organizations, brands, products, and services shared between consumers. So, I assume by "we" you are referring not to consumers but to companies. I think many smaller businesses have known about WOM marketing for a very long time because that is what they have had to rely on almost exclusively. I think some larger companies have changed the most because they have created distance between themselves and their customers and have relied on advertising to do the communication work for them, and have not prioritized listening and feedback. So I think companies who have lost sight of the importance of paying attention to their customers or clients (or other stakeholders) will have to change the most. Many of them have moved from being "oblivious" about WOM to paying some attention to it, perhaps by "monitoring" WOM. The smarter companies are the ones who will see that they need to do more than just be aware of the WOM about their products and services and monitor it, but that they need to actively listen to it, be responsive, and proactively seek to engage their customers in dialogue about the company's offerings. But if by "we" you meant consumers then I think we feel more powerful (whether we really are or not is a matter of debate) because we can amplify our opinions and thoughts due to various communication technologies (but don't give all the credit to the technologies because our communication practices are all still motivated by our desire to be recognized by others and have them confirm our view of the world and our place in it).

How did you come to be interested in WOM marketing and build your career in that area?

I started with an interest in how people talk, carry on conversations, and establish, maintain, and sometimes destroy, our personal identities and relationships. I began to notice that brand-related topics came up very frequently in people's everyday, mundane conversations, or chit chat. So I wanted to understand this form of "everyday" WOM. I then learned about companies who were seeking to actively organize and harness consumer WOM. One such company was BzzAgent, based here in Boston, and I wanted to see how this more "institutional" or organized form of WOM compared to the everyday WOM that seemed to happen randomly and without direct or conscious intervention from companies. Through comparing these two broad kinds of WOM I wanted to see what principles organizations could learn to leverage the power of WOM to the mutual benefit of companies and their stakeholders. I then became involved with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and have conducted a number of studies in the area, publishing both academic articles and industry white papers.

How do you think the WOM marketing field is going to grow from here?

I think more companies are going to move through the phases of being oblivious, to monitoring, to listening, and to a stage I call "joining in" (playing the role of an interesting conversational partner). I see more firms seeking to tie key performance indicators to customer WOM. I see them attempting to engage their "ambassadors" or "evangelists" when they realize what these customers can do for the organization. Unfortunately I predict the majority of firms will screw up the opportunity they have now by not really wanting to invest the resources in making better products and services that meet their customers needs, not really listening to customer feedback, and doing silly stunts to try and generate short-term buzz as a replacement for long-term advocacy.

What is a typical day like for you?

I wake up, stretch, listen to NPR, take the T into my office at Northeastern, read some blog entries from others in the WOM industry or trade publications, respond to student emails, teach class, have office hours with students (though more and more this is done via e-mail exchanges), work on some research projects, more e-mail, more research, take care of some service responsibilities for my academic department, and head back home.

What are two ways that we could all communicate better?

How about three? Mindfulness, dual perspective, and balancing creativity and constraint. These are three principles of human communication. Mindfulness is about being more aware and being centered in the present moment (very Zen). Accomplishing dual perspective is taking the other person's perspective and then your own. And balancing creativity and constraint is a principle of both human and organizational communication. Individuals and groups are in continuous tension between balancing needs for control with creative expression. Understanding the need for both of these to co-exist and dance together at each moment is how individuals and organizations can become successful. Kind of abstract but in class I illustrate it with concrete examples :-)

What do you teach your students about communication that everyone should know?

When designing initiatives to leverage WOM, focus on relational networks of people rather than individuals or demographics. Demographics don't communicate and individuals only communicate in the context of their social and relationship networks.

Identify "structural holes" in organizational networks. These are places where there is no channel of communication between two people or two groups. Understand why these exist and what you can do to facilitate communication across these holes.

Act in ways that are relevant to others. Provide people with opportunities that make them look good in the eyes of others. These are two tips for generating exponential WOM communication.

What is your greatest achievement?

Professionally speaking, I was very proud when I completed my dissertation, or maybe I confused pride with just relief. Either way if felt good to finish it :-) Otherwise I consider it a great achievement everytime I remember to trust my instincts and follow my passions, because I think people often forget to do the former and never fully realize the latter.

Is there something in your career that you would change?

Having to grade. I love giving students feedback but I hate grading.

What is the WOM Marketing Association and who should be/can be a member of it?

WOMMA is an industry association dedicated to advancing the field of WOM in its many forms. I think anyone who wants to learn more about WOM and be around interesting, passionate people who love to do the same should join. Plus, you'll look smart to your boss. :-)

Give me a three sentence description of your latest research on word-of-mouth marketing.

Let me tell you about three different projects, each in one sentence: I am refining a methodology that measures the conversational reach and outcomes of marketing initiatives designed to generate "talk value." I am also working with a colleague on measuring the value of customer WOM to the firm. And I am studying conversational trajectories of WOM episodes (that is, how people sequentially and inferentially move in and out of brand-related topics in the course of their everyday conversations).

How are universities teaching about WOM marketing today?

By saying that WOM is the most powerful form of marketing there is, and then devoting less than half a percent of the time talking about it. I actually calculated this one day to win a bet. My colleague though it was 1% of the time and I wagered that it was actually less. I took the most popular marketing textbook, counted the number of pages devoted to WOM and then divided by the number of total pages. But not every university is like this as there are some notable exceptions, such as Robert French at Auburn University who is doing some very neat things with WOM and social media. And there is more attention to WOM research now at the graduate level (see the WOMMA Academic Advisory Board members). I get about an inquiry a week from international students who want to study WOM so I think they're on top of it more than the US students. When I presented in Turkey last month there were two doctoral students who drove 7 hours to Istanbul to attend the first WOM marketing conference in that country.
***

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts Lindsay!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

WOM Marketing for Higher Education and Studying Overseas -- Call for Resources

Another request for resources, this time from a postgraduate student at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia. She is doing her thesis about WOM as a factor in persuading students to study overseas (specifically, for higher education).

If anyone knows of any research or information regarding this topic please include them in the comments or let me know and I'll put you in contact with the student!

By the way, folks interested in WOM, Social Media, and Higher Education should check out the HigherEdBlogCon website.

Thanks!

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WOM Marketing for Visual and Performing Arts -- Call for Resources

If you're reading this and you know about examples of WOM marketing initiatives for the visual and performing arts please let me know.

I've been contacted by a graduate student at the Wisconsin School of Business, UW-Madison, Jennifer Post Tyler. She is with the Bolz Center for Arts Administration and is doing research on WOM marketing and the arts. She is especially interested in case study data for nonprofit or governmental arts organizations who have implemented programs to understand and harness WOM.

We've discussed a few resources, but if you know of any in this area please reply as a comment to this post or contact me via e-mail and I can put you in touch with Jennifer.

By the way, there is also a student at Lumsa University in Italy who is working on WOM initiatives with museums, so if you're also studying in this area I can make introductions so everyone can collaborate and share resources.

Thanks for your help!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What's The Score -- More Coverage of NPS in UK-Based Research.

I was interviewed some time ago for an interesting article about the Net Promoter Score that appears in the March 2007 edition of Research, a UK-based trade publication serving the market research industry. The thrust of the article is that NPS is becoming an industry-standard in many companies but its academic grounding is hotly contested.

There's a neat timeline of events on page 36, which I'll summarize as follows (since I have commented on a number of these before I'll include links to my blog posts where the events intersect):

2003 -- Fred Reichheld's "One Number You Need To Grow" article in Harvard Business Review was published (hadn't started my blog yet!)

2004 -- Researchers Neil Morgan and Ron Rego offer early criticisms of NPS in a letter to the editor (this wasn't mentioned in the Research article but it should have been; I summarized their critiques here)

2005 -- Study by Paul Marsden and others at the London School of Economics (LSE) reporting results that seem to validate NPS as predictor of growth

2006 -- Reichheld's best-selling book The Ultimate Question was published in March.

Study by Alain Samson at LSE introduced the Net Advocacy Score arguing researchers need to better account for negative WOM and actual behavior (not just intentions). Robert East from Kingston University has also offered developments about actual WOM behavior rather than just intentions (details to come about that)

Interesting article in AdAge about NPS becoming an industry-standard metric (July 2006 -- not mentioned in the Research article). There was also an article done in Business Week in January 2006 about this too.

In September, the Morgan & Rego article in Marketing Science was published arguing NPS had little to no predictive power.

But later Morgan & Rego was criticized, on my blog and in academic publication (Keiningham et al.), for not making an "apples-to-apples comparison"

Riechheld responds to critics on his blog with an entry entitled "NPS does not work" -- the intersting point here is that there is a shift away from the statistical correlation between revenue growth and the NPS and towards linking revenue growth to individual behaviors

Article in Australia's Business Review Weekly cautioning those who adopt NPS to be aware of the limitations of reporting just one number (there have been a number of blog posts offering similar criticisms for a number of years before this). For this and other articles about the Net Promoter you can visit the "What They're Saying" section of Net Promoter site hosted by Satmetrix.

2007 -- Article to be published in Journal of Marketing that criticizes the predictive ability of NPS, but this time making a much better apples-to-apples comparison. There was also an important story published in the Wall Street Journal about this forthcoming article and mentioning other researchers who are seeking to advance the study of the role of word of mouth, loyalty, and the power (or lack thereof) of recommendation intentions and behaviors.

First annual Net Promoter conference held in New York City, sponsored by Satmetrix (one of the companies associated with the development of the Net Promoter metric)

Stay tuned for much more in 2007, on both the academic and industry fronts!
The final thing I'll note about this article is that it does a good job of raising the issue of whether or not the Net Promoter Score is good for the research industry or not. One the pro-side, Paul Marsden is quoted as saying that it allows researchers to have the ear of those high up in the executive food chain and that it "speaks the language" of key decision-makers in companies. On the con-side, there's a sense that executives and clients will get used to simplistic measures and forcing metrics to do what they are not designed to, or can't do.

A further criticism is that it could reduce the credibility of researchers. That is, if a metric doesn't do something its proponents said it could do, then how much faith will key decision-makers have when the next new metric comes along? Will it limit adoption of that new metric?

From my conversations with folks in the industry and readings, it seems the value of the NPS is not the score itself, but the institutionalization of a customer feedback system across organizational units that people actually pay attention to. To accomplish this it seems you need something that is relatively easy to communicate and that people at various levels have the time and patience to get their heads around. Time will tell if NPS becomes that metric, or part of a package of key performance indicators, for the long-term.

Ultimately, the gold standard for any metric is how well it allows people to make timely and responsive decisions that allow an organization to achieve its goals, and there are many innovative researchers in industry and academia seeking to answer that "ultimate question."

ADDED: Here's a post by Alain Samson about the same article, and his thoughts on the pros and cons of using the Net Promoter Score.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

What's all the buzz about? According to Lois Kelly, this isn't the most important question to ask.

Lois has written a new book called Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. In her book she writes that companies need to focus more on making meaning with their customers (or other stakeholders) than in generating buzz.

"Making meaning" can sound awfully abstract but she provides a practical, how-to guide for marketing professionals so they can figure out the best way to navigate this new world of conversational marketing.

We hear a lot these days about how companies need to "get into the conversation" but her book makes this very concrete and tangible, peppered with examples from actual companies who have done so successfully (or not so successfully).

My favorite chapter is "Building a 'talk' Culture" (Chapter 8) which goes into how companies need to rethink how they organize themselves. The table on page 167 "New Functions, New Competencies" is especially interesting. It lists eight functions that are needed to do conversational marketing, what the traditional roles were, and what the new competencies are.

Most of all, she shows how communication and conversations are central to the lifeblood of organizations, and that it's essential to develop the requisite skill sets for people throughout the organization.

Lois is on the Industry Advisory Board of my academic department at Northeastern University and we have worked on a number of projects before, including a study about influencer relationships between commercial real estate developers and key environmental, governmental, and community influencers. I love her energy, passion, and engaging style.

Becuase we worked together before I had a chance to read an early draft of the manuscript and write a blurb for the back cover. Here are the four blurbs I wrote for the book (I couldn't decide which one to use so I asked the editor to choose; she picked the first one):

#1: The Cluetrain Manifesto was a call for corporations to wake up to the global conversations about them, and potentially with them. In Beyond Buzz, Lois Kelly gives corporations the practical tools to answer that call.

#2: Many companies mistakenly think that word-of-mouth marketing is only about creating buzz for a product or service. Lois Kelly shows why this view is too narrow and that what's really needed is meaningful dialogue with customers, employees, shareholders, and community members. If you're struggling to get beyond buzz, and want a step-by-step guide for doing so, then read this book.

#3: Lois Kelly offers a lucid, step-by-step guide for companies to not only survive, but thrive, in a world of conversational marketing.

#4: Lois Kelly gets the point that word-of-mouth marketing is not just about creating buzz for a product or service, but that it's about engaging in meaningful dialogue with customers, employees, shareholders, and community members. Read this book so you can get the point too!
On a side note, I love the cover and it reminds me of my recent trip to Istanbul where I learned about "cumbas" (pronounced djoombas). Cumbas are covered balconies, usually very close in proximity to one another, where people (typically women) would talk and share stories with one another. In short, a cultural venue for word of mouth!

Best wishes with your new book Lois!

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

From Superman to Super Talk

Today I'm in Las Vegas at the Bally's Hotel and Casino for the "From Superman to Super Talk" conference hosted by Icosystem, an innovative company based in Cambridge, MA. This day-long conference is poised to advance the art and science of WOM marketing measurement and modeling, especially through the use of complexity science to model complex human processes like consumer behavior.

After some opening remarks by Paolo Gaudiano, Chief Technology Officer at Icosystem, I lead off a series of presentations. My talk is entitled "State-of-the-Art Research Efforts in Word-of-Mouth". I'll be talking about three main topics: 1) how WOM and social media are being tracked and measured, 2) how to measure conversational reach and outcomes from WOM marketing programs (I'll be providing a sneak peek at some research from one of my latest projects -- stay tuned for more), and 3) the opportunities and limitations of using likelihood to recommend measures as an organizational discipline and to tie to key business outcomes.

I'm very excited to hear the other presenters as well. The CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of Icosystem, Eric Bonabeau, will be presenting, as well as folks from GSD&M Advertising, Humana, BzzAgent, and The Monitor Group. The final session is a panel discussion on existing solutions for WOM marketing, facilitated by Ken Nicholson, the former CEO of Veridiem. Definitely check out the agenda for details.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

WOMBP: March 2007 Update

The latest version of the WOM Marketing Communication Bibliography Project (WOMBP) is now uploaded. You can access it at my download page.

Here's the background of the project and details of the contributors.

Below are new entries in this version (these aren't necessarily new studies, they just weren't included in the last update):

Barber, B. M., C. Heath, et al. (2003). "Good Reasons Sell: Reason-Based Choice Among Group and Individual Investors in the Stock Market." Management Science 49(12): 1636-1652.

Heath, C. and D. Heath (2006). "The curse of knowledge." Harvard Business Review 84(12): 20-23.

Heath, C. and D. Heath (2007). "Finding just enough of that sticky stuff (Book Excerpt)." Brandweek 48(1): 21-25.

Weiner, M. and D. Bartholomew (2006). "Dispelling the Myth of PR Multipliers and Other Inflationary Audience Measures." Institute for Public Relations.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

First WOMM Conference Turkey (& My Presentation Slides)


Kudos to the MediaCat team for hosting the First Word-of-Mouth Marketing Conference in Turkey. It was truly impressive. The conference was well organized and the meeting room was impressively designed and branded (per the picture above). The lobby outside was chock full of vendors, even with a booth giving away free cigarettes (very odd to see this being from the States).

The room was packed full, with some people standing in the back of the room (though later someone pointed out there were a few seats available so they could sit down). I don't have the final count but 400-500 were expected and given the room was full I would assume the numbers were somewhere in the range.

Representatives from a number of the major brands in Turkey were present and at various levels of the corporate food chain. There were also two invited bloggers chronicling the event -- I'll try to find links to their pages***. And, there were even a couple of PhD students who drove 7 1/2 hours just to see the presentations.

A PDF file of my slides are posted at my download page (after the registration screen navigate to "Presentations").

If this conference is any indication, Turkey is definitely ready for WOM!

Download My Presentation


*** Here are the links to the Turkish bloggers at the event: Alemsah Ozturk and Alper Akcan Here's their presentation. Thanks to Hilal Betin for providing these links!

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Merhaba from Istanbul!

Hello from Istanbul, Turkey! I am here for the First Word of Mouth Marketing Conference in this country's rich history. The conference is taking place at the swanky Swissotel Istanbul European banks of the Bosphorus and hosted by MediaCat.

The conference starts tomorrow and will feature three speakers from the U.S. (Dave Balter, George Silverman, and myself) and then two people from Turkey (Dr. Yanki Yazgan and Renan Tavukcuoglu). My speech will focus on WOM measurement (the three key points will be social media analysis, tracking conversational reach and outcomes, and the pros and cons of using likelihood to recommend scores to measure advocacy and ROI). Speaker bios are here. The organizers are expecting 400-500 [[UPDATE: 500-600!]] people and it's received quite a bit of press coverage here.

For example, this morning (Monday) I was interviewed for a business show that airs on CNN Turk called "Business Lunch." I was asked to explain what WOM marketing was, how it can be measured, and what companies in Turkey need to know about it. I hope to get the video as it was my first live TV interview (the last TV interview I did was for the Chronicle and I had the opportunity to ask "Can we try that one more time?" -- live TV is much more of a rush).

Here's what I have learned about WOM and social media in Turkey thus far, mainly from a representative from the UnitePR agency who made arrangements for the CNN interview:

- Traditional hotbeds of word-of-mouth activity are the marketplaces, such as the grand bazaar, and across the streets from balcony (cumba) to the next.

- Turkish people pride themselves on their rich historical traditions of being passionate storytellers (think Homer and Herodotus).

- On the social media front, blogs are around though they seem to be used much for discussing news items and politics. WOM seems to be most amplified via e-mail chains and groups. (Spam apparently used to be a problem here but due to the companies responsible realizing it really wasn't that effective, and better filtering technology, it's not such a big deal anymore.) Apparently there are some discussion forums that are popular discussing the issues of moms and kids. There don't seem to be any firms currently analyzing social media in Turkey now, at least to my knowledge (Nathan Gilliat hasn't identified any here yet). But I think it's only a matter of time.

- Rumors about certain companies seem to be especially prevalent, and most often spread through e-mail chains.
I hope to learn more especially from the Dr. Yazgan and Ms. Tavukcuoglu. Looking forward to tomorrow!

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