Reporting from the WOMMA Research Symposium

Day one of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s (WOMMA) Summit has come and gone. The day was dedicated solely to word of mouth (WOM) research.

There were two major recurring themes in today’s discussion:

1. Who are influencers and how to you judge their influence: The general consensus is that influencers are those that drive conversation. These are people who are highly persuasive and highly active, whether it is in a niche realm or with a general audience. There was no consensus on how to judge their influence. Some monitoring and research companies gauge influence with just backlinks to the individuals website, while others incorporate a plethora of factors such as attitude, knowledge, spending, behavior, status and connectedness.

My philosophy aligns more with the latter. I am a big proponent of looking at both quantitative and qualitative factors when gauging influence. This means looking at the individuals website traffic numbers, the quality of their writing, the activity level of their community, the intelligence of their community and their connections to other online networks or websites.

2. How do you prove return on investment (ROI) with WOM: Many of the experts in the room have grappled with this question for years. They are able to address ROI to an extent, but never entirely. One goal that actually came out of today is to work as a united group to develop a proper ROI model in an effort to improve WOM marketing as a whole. My company, Sports Media Challenge, will be one that takes an active role in the process moving forward.

Several different models of depicting the value of word of mouth were discussed:

1. Customer Value Matrix: This model focuses on adding new customers while reducing marketing acquistion costs. It compares the value of customers who joined due to refferal vs. customers who would’ve joined anyway. It is important to note that both groups are seen as a positive. Even if an individual joined or purchased a consumer product because they would’ve anyway and not because of WOM, the company still saved on traditional marketing efforts.

2. Net Promoter Matrix: This model attempts to add customers while minimizing lost customers with WOM. They look at [positively referred consumers x number referred x conversion rate] and the same with negatively referred.

3. Social Value of Opinion: This looks at the acceleration effect, which involves focusing on people who are highly persuasive and highly active (influencers).

4. Conversation Value Model: This not only focuses on new customer purchases due to WOM, but how long consumers continue to recommend a product after their initial recommendation.

Most importantly, I came away from today reminded that WOM and social media in particular is fueled not by technology, but by relationships. Sure as social media users we use technology (blogs, Facebook, IM, Twitter…), but it is the relationships we develop with friends, colleagues and consumers that allows us to accomplish our goals.


2 Responses to “Reporting from the WOMMA Research Symposium”

  1. November 12, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Sounds just as fascinating as i expected. Wish I was there but since I’m not, what does this mean in particular to our sports, entertainment or lifestyle clients? Thoughts? It brings me back to the Sports marketing Association meeting in Charlotte earlier this week when we raised the question and perpetuated the debate about whether it was more important for us to direct our clients’ attetion toward the influencers or those most easily influenced? Panelsist seemed baffled by the question – all except one who noted that celebrity athletes/ coaches are “influencers” in and of themselves which is why they’re celebrities. As much sense as that made I tend toward the belief that there are many unheralded “influeners” in fandom and they’re waiting to be recogn ized and tapped into.

  2. 2 jakerosen
    November 14, 2008 at 9:00 am

    The sports world is behind all others in the sense of having an established plan with regards to social media. Tech companies, financial companies and others all agree that they need to approach influencers before even thinking of reaching out to the influenced.

    It amazes me how far behind sports is with their social media strategies. Influencers in sports in particular are fanatic in nature and other fans respect them for that fanaticism. If they didn’t they likely wouldn’t read their blog or discussion board thread. It is this ardent devotion, passion, and outright fanaticism that makes sports influencers even more powerful than other verticals. These fans have adopted a team, athlete, coach as part of their identity and will therefore defend them in any situation. You don’t see this type of devotion with influencers for consumer products or financial services.

    Sports organizations and individuals need a leader to show them how best to take advantage of the many social media conversations taking place.

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