The percentage of the world's total internet users who use social media has risen from 8% in 2005 to 72% in 2013. This has helped to open up a new platform for companies to communicate their services and products and has been proven in cases to be pivotal to a brands marketing tact. Social media allows brands to convey their 'personality' or provide additional customer service; it has been shown that a huge 81% of US consumers are influenced by friend's social media posts - what is known as 'Word of Mouth' marketing.
Geno Church, author of the marketing strategy book 'Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements', gives three points that he believes are pivotal to engaging with customers through social media:
· Functional: People engage in functional conversations about brands to get information needed to make decisions and to better interpret the world around them.
· Social: People engage in social conversations about brands to impress others, to express uniqueness and to increase their reputation.
· Emotional: Brands that invoke strong emotional feelings are more likely to be talked about. Make sure your brand is evoking a strong emotional trigger. It hits home the most.
The new found platform for interaction between customers and brands through social media has allowed companies to make use of the opportunity to create conversation about the brand. Here are some of the top companies to have implemented word of mouth in this way.
Starbucks coffee likes to promote itself as providing the best quality coffee beans, service to its customers, and community spirit in-store since it opened its first shop in 1971. Their challenge was to recreate this in through their online community. To do this, sharing pictures with the shop through their online social media is encouraged. The company creates hashtags such as '#StarbucksMoments' and '#RedCups' in order to promote their change to red coffee cups for Christmas, keeping social engagement.
Founded in 1919, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have an esteemed history and are today the oldest airline company still operating under its original name. This created a challenge in keeping the brands image on social media consistent with the reputation that they had built up over time. The airline has been able to maximise the potential of social media through using it as an additional service used for fast-tracked customer service, even giving the expected response time on the KLM Twitter account. In a recent article in eConsultancy, KLM state that "social media makes $250 million a year for the airline calculated using a last-click model" showing the gains to be had from brands using social media.
Since being founded in 1985, the UK fashion brand Superdry has had its marketing efforts focused on word of mouth marketing. This was able to translate to real gains when social media enabled the additional interactions between the brand and its customer base. Effective and targeted promotion of celebrities, such as David Beckham and Nicole Scherzinger, dressed in Superdry clothing and when shared through social media was able to help in creating a buzz about the brand online. This was able to be built upon playing a large role in fuelling the company's growth and success since.
The ALS Association are a charity which sets out to raise awareness and the funding of research to look for a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) disease. Starting out the year with a relatively small following, the charity is a great example of a little known charity name which through social media was able to use a campaign to promote its cause.
During the summer 2014 the ALS 'Ice Bucket Challenge' was a mini craze that had people all over the world pouring buckets of iced water on themselves in the name of charity. Household names even got involved in the challenge making their own videos including the likes of George Bush, Usain Bolt, and Tom Cruise. The campaign raised $115 million as a direct result of the social media video campaign and its donations.