Is Blogging Still Word of Mouth on Steroids?

As part of an initiative that’s just begun at work, I’ve begun to regularly to read and review books related to marketing, the Internet and PR. I’m currently in the midst of reading Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel and although it was published in mid-2006, it still makes for fascinating and relevant reading.

There’s a very interesting quote in the book from one of the key investors in ICQ, which becomes the book’s main supposition – ‘blogging is word of mouth on steroids’.  There are some great examples in the book of this principle in action, including a chapter on Microsoft. As most of us likely know, Microsoft suffered from a huge image problem in the early 2000s and was most commonly referred to as ‘the Borg’. In 2002, an independent initiative by keen employees within the company led to a huge network of bloggers all working to proactively respond to concerns and attempt to change perceptions within the tech sector that Microsoft was big, bad and evil. This approach lead to some change in the way that people blogged and spoke about Microsoft, which given the nascent nature of blogging at the time, was truly amazing. 

So blogging can lead to productive change in the tech and B2B sector. But is it still the most powerful form of word of mouth in the consumer products sector?  I would say no. Much more powerful forms of word of mouth exist these days in the form of Facebook, IM, mobile SMS / MMS, MySpace and Twitter. Consumers are actively using them to make their choices known and their voices heard and one could argue that they are more important than blogs. From Wispa relaunching earlier this year to Dell using Twitter as a means of responding to consumers, an active two-way dialogue has begun. Smart brands will recognise that this dialogue isn’t something that you can control, but something savvy brands can use to actively engage in and be a part of the conversations consumers are having.  These platforms are just as important and powerful in value as responding to blogs and its predecessor, responding to letters and phone calls to the customer careline. 

Dell’s use of Twitter deserves further examination. Dell have created a digital media team whose job it is to purely proactively respond to consumer concerns online and ensure that a two-way dialogue between the company and consumers is taking place. Interestingly and happily, Dell have recognised that social media needs to be at the core of their marketing strategy – an approach that more brands need to take. Richard@Dell , Lionel@Dell  and Kerry@Dell actively listen, learn and converse across the web on behalf on Dell and have quickly jumped on top of Twitter and the ease of 140 character microblogging, as a means of making sure they’re part of conversations. Admittedly, Twitter is still very big in the early adopter set, but I have actively followed Richard@Dell’s tweets over the past few months and am fascinated at how open to ideas he is as a representative of Dell and his willingness to communicate ideas he’s received via Twitter and other forms of social media back internally to Dell. 

This less formal approach to word of mouth marketing is something that more brands should look and if this list is anything to go by, something that some brands have tried, but struggled to get their heads round. But all is not lost. Jeremiah Owyang has put together a great piece on why brands are unsuccessful on Twitter and what they can do to embrace this platform.

Stay tuned for the next part of my review…

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