7 Word of Mouth Trends You Should Know: Insights from the WOMMA Summit

This year's WOMMA Summit proved to be one of most insightful events of 2011. Aside from tons of Vegas-style fun, networking and of course, a little casino action, the conference delivered a treasure trove of ideas and insights for word of mouth practitioners.

It was no surprise that social media was one of the hottest topics on both the conference agenda and marketplace floor. But beyond simply embracing social media channels in innovative ways, a few key trends surfaced that everyone should have on their radar in the coming year.
Social business is becoming a reality.
What started as the social customer and moved to the social brand has now has transformed into social business. What does that mean? Businesses of all industries and sizes are evolving their social media activities to permeate all facets of business. Adoption of social media in departments outside of just Marketing was a huge topic of discussion on multiple panels. A couple of the shining stars cited as examples of how to do this well included IBM and SAP which have worked to roll out social media corporate-wide.

Michael Brito shared the simple but poignant quote is his session "if you love your customers they will love you back. And tell others." That not only spans the communication department but also the sales team, the customer department and any employee or area of the business that interacts with customers.
Curation is becoming the best friend of communicators.
We've heard for years now that we're living in the information age. News and ideas are spread like wildfire across the social web. WOM practitioners should and are using this to their advantage in numerous ways. A few noteworthy ways businesses are finding and sharing content to impact business strategy include:
- Customer feedback and stories to share on branded channels or be used for aggregating insights on how to better business areas
- Relevant news that resonates with your online community
- Helpful information that provides value to both customers, prospects and members of your industry
Feed Magnet, a fellow Austin company, was a hit throughout the conference showcasing a great example of how to curate content in a meaningful way. By pulling in content from around the social web tagged with #womma, its displays made people stop, watch and reflect on what others were saying. In turn, the displays encouraged more activity by conference attendees who had fun seeing their personal content in the streams.

Content, content, content.
At the heart of social media and word of mouth is content. The end result of this is conversations, but that conversation is often promoted from content your brand or agency shares. News stories, relevant industry trends, product updates or personal reflections help spark this conversation. And when created or shared well, content can make the different between a forgettable or a talkable brand.
Creating unique experiences  
Different audiences crave different interactions. Engagement is a growing buzz word for WOM practitioners that can have different meanings to different brands. The question each should be asking is "what type of experiences mean the most to my audience?" The 2011 WOMMA Summit celebrated the leaders at the forefront of creating these experiences with their WOMMY awards. One clear trend that emerged in the area of unique experiences was that technology is playing an ever-growing role in helping to create memorable interactions with options like custom Facebook tabs and personalized applications. 

Advocacy programs.
Influence remains a big focus but actual advocacy (or action) is where the focus is shifting. Fully crafted advocacy programs were at the center of this conversation.The brands talked about them. And the agencies in attendance were helping the brands plan and implement them. The idea being that action should be the ultimate goal for brands striving the build word of mouth.

This might come in the form of soliciting feedback like Dell does for its Idea Storm or like Starbucks implemented for My Starbucks Idea. All of the examples shared during the conference had one thing in common: they engaged customers in ways that enabled their conversations to be heard and thus amplified ideas and awareness of the brands themselves.  
Measurement. Consistent measurement, that is. 
Experts far and wide still have varying ideas on exactly what measurements are most important for social media and word of mouth activity. Is it the size of networks and reach? Or engagement and interactions? And what about the ultimate goal of conversions? The resounding consensus that emerged from WOMMA was that each company or agency might have different measurement metrics that matter more to them. However, the key to truly measuring initiatives is to be consistent in what you measure across the business.

Operationalizing social media
After all the social media strategies, tips and examples were shared, the obvious topic left for discussion was how to make it scaleable. One successful campaign or experience is great, but operationalizing social media will be the focus, and challenge, in the near future. Lots of ideas were explored, but the three solutions that percolated to the top were policies, training and technology. Providing the protection to brands and employees, paired with guidance and technology solutions to scale activities will continue to rise in importance as social business and WOM expand.

Thanks to WOMMA for yet another wonderful and insightful event and to the brands, agencies and practitioners who came, shared and conquered another year of WOM goodness!

Have a favorite takeaway I missed? Add to the list and keep the word of mouth spreading until the next big event.

Social Media Initiative managed by Spredfast
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