Huey Lewis and the News, a 1980s music group, sang about the Power of Love. 

If the group released their song today, they could update it to the Power of Voice.

The song’s theme about passion describes exactly what is happening in social media communication. 

People are talking about products and services online, displaying their passion for how much they love a brand of coffee or referring a pet care store. That passion gets expressed through a Facebook post, a tweet or live streaming video.

Talk Talk

Marketers have applied the phrase “word of mouth marketing” to describe the behavior. 

While the phrase’s origins pre-dates the internet, social media and analytic capability surfaced the value that can be derived from word of mouth marketing strategies.  

As analytic capability has advanced, the ability to gauge consumer sentiment has improved.  This makes understanding that sentiment and capturing the mentions a top priority among marketers.

Measure Your Words

But despite analytical improvements, attributing word of mouth to sales for a brand is complex due to varied formats of commentary and the ethereal quality of a commentary’s existence online.   

Word of mouth attribution is among a number of reasons behind why marketers struggle with building an engaged consumer audience, as CMSWire explained Marketers Haven’t Mastered Digital Transformation.  

Audience building requires genuine response, and mastering strategies that lead to authentic engagement remains sporadic.

One startup that is seeking to enlighten marketers is Smync, a Chicago-based social word-of-mouth marketing platform.

Smync offers a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) social relationship platform that can help brands and agencies analyze word of mouth sentiment among their social media relationships.  

As a result, marketers develop better strategies that build stronger advocacy from those relationships, whether they are among fans for a product or from discussions with communities.

The Word from Smync

Jeff Ernst co-founded Smync. He was formerly vice president of sales and marketing at Netbriefings, as well as a director at Minnesota West, where he won numerous awards and spoke frequently on innovation in civic and private partnerships.

I talked to him recently about how word of mouth marketing has evolved to influence strategy for social media and Internet of Things devices.  

DeBois: How does the Internet of Things movement influence word of mouth marketing?

Ernst: The heart of the influence is deciding what technology means something to you. Be it a laptop, tablet or smartphone, people search out to connect to their friends. 

Tech becomes part of your customers' lives, so brands should be paying attention to mentions.  

If I were an IoT company, I would want my customers sharing their stories of how they enjoyed using my device, instead of my brand initiating the discussion. 

For example, I am installing smart locks and a smart thermostat in my home. I want to know who has tried this device and how successful it is.  That means I'm relying on word of mouth.

Hearing from your friends is more influential than from a brand because brand trust among consumers is low right now.

DeBois: You have said that marketing campaigns align poorly with people, that the idea of campaigns mislead marketers in understanding true engagement. How do you see analytics changing to match to this concept?  Are there solutions that seem best for accounting consumer sentiment rather campaign channels?

Ernst: We are seeing evolution away from silo measurement.  Some managers still measure within a silo, viewing this many clicks or what happened on this channel.  But customer experience is not a static metrics on a point in time.    

We have to think about what happens to create a purchase.  Did it happen because of social media or an ad?  Do they come into a physical store because of the social media or an ad? Everything goes across a touch point. 

In fact we at Smync are working on introducing an analytic solution that blends social media with customer experience more accurately than what on the market today.

DeBois: Are there IoT devices emerging that stimulate word of mouth sharing comparable or better than the typical consumer devices (smartphones/tablets)?

Ernst: We are early in the game regarding IoT’s influence and identifying the significant initiators of word of mouth moments.   

IoT devices are changing how people are using things and creating a new experience for so many people. With a smartphone, you know what a phone is going to do, whereas with IoT devices, people can introduce new actions and context with their communication.

DeBois: Over the years the Super Bowl has become the most intensely watched events for advertising as much as it has for sports.  Were there any word of mouth tactics that you and the Smync team found interesting during this year’s Super Bowl, especially with its 50th anniversary celebration?  

Ernst: Two distinct Super Bowl 50 advertising moments caught my interest.  The Budweiser mention by Peyton Manning was an authentic mention, and probably made a blip on the radar.

NFL players cannot be paid spokespeople for alcoholic beverages while playing for the NFL.  So Peyton’s mention was extremely valuable to Budweiser.

The second was the P&G and Wal-Mart video, Game Day tradition.

The strategy drew mothers who post Super Bowl party hosting tips using the hashtag #GameDayTraditions.  P&G and WalMart had leveraged the right audience.

Women drive more decisions, and the NFL has been making inroads towards that demographic.  Adweek reported on the success.  

When you think about marketing like that, it’s interesting that brands are choosing to rely on word of mouth marketing during the most expensively advertised and widely watched event in the world.