Micro-targeting and organizational communication theories fueling word of mouth marketing

Below are two fascinating studies on communication theory and practice. The commonality between both is the nexus between effective use of social media and word-of-mouth marketing.

The first study Social Media Marketing vs. Prevalent Marketing Practices: A Study of Marketing Approaches for Micro firms in Sweden (.pdf download) focuses on micro firms leveraging social media to promote higher customer loyalty. The author sought to answer the following questions:

  1. Which of the two types of marketing is more effective in terms of targeted segment coverage and expenditures?
  2. Which marketing approach enables micro firms to maintain better relationships with customers?
  3. Whether or not it is the right time for micro firms in Sweden to adopt social media marketing practices?

The heart of the study is Section 4.2.3.

The second study, Structured Viral Communication: The Political Economy and Social Organization of Digital Disintermediation (.pdf), is the best analysis I’ve read of how Obama used structured communication plans to spread his message and increase loyalty.

Photo credit ssoosay

Social media and Obama victory

The New York Times has a great read on how Obama embraced social media to help win the election.

Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to win the presidency, F.D.R. used radio to change the way he governed, J.F.K. was the first president to understand television…Senator Barack Obama understood that you could use the Web to lower the cost of building a political brand.

Consider the following:

3,099,323 supporters and 527,783 wall messages on an Obama Facebook page.

136,083 subscribers on an Obama YouTube channel.

This user-generated Obama video has 11,696,725 views as of this posting (and is this a good, bad, or neutral brand impression? Does it matter?):

An interesting theory raised in the New York Times article is that by embracing and using social media’s power to organize and influence–and help raise $600 million–traditional party foundations have been irrevocably shaken, if not permanently altered. Similarly, it seems to me that many firms today are in a place where the political parties were pre-Obama: comfortably employing “tried and true” models to promote, build, sustain, and manage their brands.

Yes, entities like Trulia, Zillow, etc, injected much needed creativity and transparency into the historically balkanized and feudal-like operations of the real estate industry. But the industry has now largely absorbed the impact these entities had and is now challenging them in certain ways (e.g., by demanding accountability in terms of lead quality and conversion as opposed to just click volumes). However, it’s social media that will change the foundations of the real estate industry, just like it did in the recent presidential campaign.

Further, what’s brilliant about social media is that in and of itself it’s transparent. You want the inside scoop on Obama’s strategy? It’s no secret, really, because you can just see what his team put together. That is, you can model your own social media strategy on Obama’s (e.g., look at how the Obama team structured its Facebook page and YouTube channel) and deduce what strategic choices were made by studying the tactics employed. For more strategies, I encourage you to also visit Owyang’s blog.

Mitigating bad press through viral marketing

Here is an excellent thesis on how public relations professionals can use viral marketing tactics powered by social media to mitigate bad press. The author states that viral public relations campaigns “are less overt and therefore better received” because consumers perceive they are in control. (p56) Viral marketing tactics allow professionals to listen, build relationships with customers, and hopefully build brand ambassadors.

Yet despite proffering evidence that viral marketing–if deployed strategically–can yield a high gain return in managing and preserving a firm’s reputation, the author points out that public relations professionals are loathe to abandon traditional methodologies. The author does point out some tactics, however, that public relations professionals can adopt from the advertising world: target marketing, integrated communications plans, deft handling and understanding of niche marketing principles, and embracing consumer control over and transmogrification of brand identity and meaning.