Influence of word of mouth on customer perception of service

This research paper focuses on the influence of word of mouth (WOM) on customers’ perception of service. It’s axiomatic that negative WOM can significantly impact brand reputation. Studying the effect of WOM on such perceptions, though, is another matter. And the research article delves into some interesting bits. First, customers’ perceived service value influences their revisit intention, which in turn influences positive or negative WOM. Second, gender influences WOM. The study points out that women trend more towards a relational aspect versus men who are more trial-and-error focused:

  • For female customers, relational service quality will have a stronger total influence on the WOM than core service quality.
  • For male customers, core service quality will have a stronger total influence on WOM than relational quality.
  • The total effect of relational quality on WOM will be stronger for female customers than the male.
  •  The total effect of core quality on WOM will be stronger for male than female.

The implications seem fairly obvious: focus on delivering superior relational and core experiences. The study suggests different methods of CRM (call scripts, greetings, etc) based on gender, especially where the CRM involves human-to-human interaction. In real estate, this could trickle down to agents’ initial interactions with cusomters too: for men, generally, get right to the point, whereas for women, generally, focus on establishing a relationship first and ease into the data as relationship-focused interactions mature.

Online community management and social ties

This study (.pdf) delves into programmatic methodology that can be used to predict strong and weak ties between users of a social network. From a community manager’s perspective, this is important because predictive activities can alleviate some oversight tasks while intelligently satisfying the needs of community members. As an example of practical implications of their research, the authors note that:

When users make privacy choices, a system could make educated guesses about which friends fall into trusted and untrusted categories.

…and…

Consider a politician or company that wants to broadcast a message through the network such that it only passes through trusted friends.

From a marketing perspective, it’s important to understand this as way to drive customer loyalty because as social networks continue to grow, predictive systems that deliver more relevant information in meaningful ways will drive overall customer loyalty. This could be a huge value add for such social network marketing/branding services like Facebook pages.

Related post: Peering Under the Hood at Facebook

Facebook and Twitter real time search is good for multichannel marketing strategies

Facebook’s recent purchase of FriendFeed is a multichannel marketing boon. Mashable detailed some threats Twitter may face with respect to the FriendFeed purchase while pointing out some threats to Google too. Regardless as to how the game (err war) plays out, as a marketer you’ve just been handed another delicious marketing tool to leverage. I’ve previously written about the potential power of Facebook and Twitter as multichannel marketing tools. The basic gist of the argument is illustrated by how Dell Computer leverages Facebook and Twitter.

A quick perusal of Dell’s Twitter and Facebook landing pages demonstrates multichannel marketing at it best: Dell has Facebook pages and Twitter handles for Dell Lounge, Dell Outlet, Dell Small Business, etc. The beauty of this from a multichannel marketing strategy is that a consumer “subscribes” to a particular channel (out of a choice of many) and self-selects which topic (i.e., channel) is most important to them knowing that Dell will centralize almost all of its communication to them about this particular topic via this channel. This works well for the real-time search features of Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s how this plays out on Facebook’s new real-time search feature for “dell lounge”:

Here’s how the same search plays out on search.Twitter.com:

Here’s a Facebook search result for “delloutlet“:

Here’s a Twitter search result for the same:

As a real estate marketer you could do something like Dell by setting up niche-specific Facebook Pages and separate, corresponding, Twitter handles (for example, focusing on foreclosure investment advice in your market niche). Anyone who fans your Facebook page or subscribes to the corresponding Twitter channel has an expectation of receiving targeted advice related to the topic you’ve identified. For example, in the case of foreclosure investment advice you could update/tweet about listings, market stats, your general thoughts, etc, while cross promoting both channels (for example, on Dell’s Twitter page you will notice they promote their Facebook pages). The synergies realized between both platforms will go a long way towards reinforcing your expertise and further position you as a trusted advisor.

Real estate multichannel marketing increasing ROI

Aligning website landing pages with targeted social media marketing channels will yield higher on-page conversions (as defined by increased showing appointments, chat requests, 1-800 number call-ins, etc). The challenge many real estate marketers face today is effectively managing the flow of social media traffic with an eye towards ROI. It’s a multichannel marketing issue, which starts with controlling user client and potential client expectations so to avoid the “mishmash syndrome”.

The mishmash syndrome occurs when all sources of traffic to your website converge without any clear indication from whence they’ve come combined with no clear indication as to what they’re to do once on the site. Confusion reigns, frustration mounts, bounces occur. In other words without controlling the expectations of the originating inbound users it’s very difficult to align on-page calls to action to users’ needs and expectations. In fact, your website may–at first glance–look something like this:

Confusing signage and message
Confusing signage and message

Controlling expectations could be as simple as clearly defining what types of information you’ll engage in on a specific social media platform. For example:

  • clearly indicate on your website to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn for specific information
  • set up a LinkedIn professional group or Facebook Page where you’ll focus your information and interaction around a specific topic like real estate investment advice in the age of REO
  • begin slowly migrating your Twitter updates to centralize around a cloud of topics or invite current followers to “subscribe” to a new Twitter handle that will focus exclusively on this “topic cloud”
  • start using targeted Facebook ads to drive traffic

By doing something like the above you’ll let your sphere opt-in to specific channels which thus frees you to narrowly focus on the specific themes or topics you’ve identified. Once you’ve begun engaging new or migrated followers via these defined channels you can begin tracking flows to your website and testing and optimizing the website to meet these users’ expectations.

For example, let’s assume you have a call to action on your website home page something like this: “Join our new Facebook page for real estate investment and REO advice” (as opposed to simply saying “Join us on Facebook”). As you begin to gain fans to this specific page you have a fairly high degree of confidence they’re there for a specific purpose and you could initially provide studies, market stats, reports, essentially any base level research and information regarding real estate investment and REO and ask for comments and feedback regarding these posts. This builds authority and credibility.

Once you’ve developed a healthy degree of dialogue (i.e., engagement) you can begin driving people back to your site for targeted activities, for example: “Just listed a sweet foreclosure investment property” with a link back to a landing detail page specifically targeted at this Facebook fan base and their Facebook friends, perhaps even with a welcome message like “Thanks for visiting us from Facebook, glad you’re here” (a simple script that recognizes the originating URL should do the trick nicely). And then knowing that this fan visitor is likely comfortable with “tech” perhaps your primary “contact me” call to action is a prominently displayed and colored button that says “Click this button to text me if you want to set up an appointment”, with a thank you message after the click like “Thanks for texting me, I’ll text you back shortly and we can set up an appointment. Make it a great day.”

These types of tactics go a long way to realizing a 1-to-1 dialogue. These tactics allow you to focus on a specific niche, target an engaged clientele, position you as an expert to this clientele, and close the loop in a manner that’s satisfactory to this clientele.

Related posts:
Clients are not cows
Responsiveness drives differentiation

List of social web resources 5-21-2009

Metrics
Here is a great primer on RFM analysis, which I believe has applicability to social media marketing. The foundation of RFM is something that can drive the establishment of engagement metrics as well as allowing marketers to do a better job at managing the social media marketing channel.

Social media
Scoop44, an online “newspaper” founded by college students, received a two-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (nice to see the support of online journalism pure-plays; eventually we likely will not even make the distinction). This site is a nice blend between traditional reporting and new media functionality.

General coolness
Anyone interested in exploring and discussing graphic design issues should consider visiting this site. It’s an excellent compendium of thought-provoking topics and trends related to graphic design. Cutting through social media chatter will depend more and more on effective design to engage people once they’ve stepped past the social media veneer.

List of social web resources 4-24-2009

Blogging:

Here’s a good history of SEO since 1999, which is valuable to understand how things have changed over the last 10 years. Change is a constant with the Internet and SEO…what “worked” yesterday may not “work” today. Thus, focus on passionate, relevant, and niche content as a way to ground your SEO efforts on a solid foundation. My opinion: relevant, niche content will remain king for SEO.

Social networks:

According to comScore, Twitter gained the most visitor traction in March 2009 (9,313,000 unique visitors), a 131% growth over February 2009 (4,033,000 unique visitors).

Social media coolness:

UC Berkeley’s Opinion Space allows you to visualize your opinions relative to others. This article gives a good overview of the process.

Here’s a nifty resource on topics related to setting up Key Performance Indicators for your webiste. KPIs allow you to measure the success and effectiveness of your website.

Mashable has a Social Media Hub series and has compiled a list of the social media scene in New York City.