Online vs Offline WOMM

Word Of Mouth Marketing: The Buzz About Online And Offline Buzz

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As social media becomes the focus of attention for many marketers, it is essential that we not forget the power and influence of good old fashioned face-to-face conversations. 

Early in my term as Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Board President, I commissioned an Offline Word of Mouth Task Force, headed by former board member Stuart Sheldon, to advance the awareness and importance of offline conversations in order to bring emphasis to this critical area for our membership. 

At last week’s WOMMA Summit, the task force convened a conversation to discuss the importance and relevance of offline word of mouth marketing. In addition to Sheldon, who is the Co-President of Escalate, members of the task force and panel included Brad Fay, COO of Keller Fay Group, Chris Laird, CEO of Tremor, and Idil Cakim, VP of NM Incite.

Among the topics discussed was: "What is offline WOM? How is it similar to or different from online WOM?" 

As a preamble to the conversation, Laird, in a November 15th Forbes article titled, “Why Digital Still Can’t Beat Word of Mouth In Sharing Brand Messages,” shared his perspective on that question. He cited survey results from Keller Fay’s recent work and spoke to the dramatic difference in online and offline influence. One excerpt from the story is as follows…

“The study showed that despite our industry’s focus on digital engagement, the vast majority – 91% – of conversations about brands occur in-person or on the phone. Among Keller Fay’s survey participants, there were 10 times more offline conversations daily about brands versus online. The study also found that 60% of respondents reported a high likelihood to make a purchase based on an in-person interaction and that 67% of offline conversations are mostly positive.”

Personally, I wasn't surprised by the results of the survey. They are quite similar to findings that have been at the core of the word of mouth marketing movement for several years. I'm delighted by the large sample size (32,000) and the extended period of time (a full twelve months) during which the study was conducted. That 90% of all brand related word of mouth conversations continue to be held in offline forums is remarkable. In my opinion, findings like these make the importance of offline engagement - at as many touch points as possible - a critical success factor for CMO's and brand managers in all types of businesses.

Upon returning home from the Las Vegas Summit, I was contacted by an online friend, Steve Olenski, Creative Director of Digital Services for The Star Group. Not long ago, on July 26th, Steve took the position that Word of Mouth Marketing and Social Media Marketing had become one and the same. I respectfully disagreed with him and told him why. Now, four months later, Steve has changed his tune. He told me, and has written in his most recent blog entry, that the data has convinced him. Social media tools are a subset of Word of Mouth Marketing and the integration of online and offline strategies remain critical to our marketing success.

I’m delighted to have been part of the conversation and thoughtful consideration around this topic. I’m even more pleased that WOMMA has been instrumental in surfacing relevant information and constructive debate on topics that make a difference in the effective development of talkable brands.


Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.