Channel Champion Blog

Gee, it seems like “Social Networking” is the latest buzz with all marketers. Judging by the fact that content related to this subject is by far the most popular on this blog, I have to point out that there is really nothing new with the concept…

Back in the 90’s (remember then? Clinton was president. We had a budget surplus, stocks were increasing in value. The internet was in it’s infancy as a marketing medium…but I digress). Back then there was a HUGE marketing movement called “Word of Mouth” or WOM for short. The “concept” behind WOM (as it was called to us marketing veterans) was the realization that there was no better form of advertising than personal endorsements by actual consumers….nothing you can pay for can actually be stronger for the brand. To substantiate it, there were all kind of statistics tossed around like: “if someone likes your product they’ll tell 4 people, but if they DON’T like your product, they’ll tell 40 people”. Don’t hold me to those numbers, but those metrics are about right.

Well, there were all kinds of newsletters and seminars devoted to “Word of mouth” Marketing as a result of this implied power of referral (positive or negative). While basic in concept, for some reason this was a “revelation” to many marketers.

With the dawn of the “Information age” , what was established as “Word of Mouth” marketing became “Peer to Peer”, or in it’s more simpler form “P2P”. Suddenly, people could actually email their friends about your product, or even join user groups and bulletin boards to pontificate on the virtues and/or frustrations of a brand. Wow!!! What a concept!

Now, as we close one decade in this 21st century we find ourselves as a morphing of the concept once again as P2P becomes “Social Networking.”
What’s the difference that drove this change? Suddenly the “Media is the message.”

You see, the core of “WOM” was “Keep your customers happy” because if you don’t, they’ll tell a bunch of people and sink ya’. If you do, they’ll be your greatest ambassador. Hey, look at Nordstrom’s. They have less than half the budget of their nearest competitors but had a stronger growth rate because of the customer satisfaction levels.

Now, however, with “Social Networking” we have somehow gotten away from these core marketing attributes of WOM to focus on the vehicles themselves…..from Twitter to submitting restaurant reviews on “Yelp”. My point? The technology itself will constantly change, so don’t get hung up there. The principles of WOM should not be forgotten and should really be the basis for your social networking initiative.