Measurement of Word of Mouth and Word of Mouth as Measurement

by Marianne Richmond on June 23, 2006

The question  is this: Are the measurements of word of mouth giving us accurate information and should we use the word of mouth data as market research for our brands and businesses?

At WOMMA, there were lots of presentations from research companies that say they can accurately measure the influence consumer generated content and there were lots of presentations about successful word of mouth efforts. The former causes me some degree of skepticism; its not that I don’t believe in the necessity of monitoring word or that word of mouth cannot be amplified. There is a definite similarity in the factors that contribute to successful word of mouth. As a corollary to that though is the fact that the foundation of success is a great product or service.

Of course, to be regarded as successful, these campaigns have to generate results which are results measured in sales not in links or consumer generated content. Having said that, I was truly impressed by the creativity of many of the word of mouth efforts from "Neuter Your Bunny" to Snakes on a Plane.

WOMMA conferences are intense and the day’s sessions are full of information and ideas. The afternoon of Day 1 featured sessions on quantitative and qualitative measurement, a topic in need of discussion and clarification. Julian Aldridge of Ammo Marketing and a panelist on 43 Ideas highlighted one of the most important considerations in my opinion when he said in #28, "measure results not actions."

Last Friday, Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing posted a Q&A with Bill Neal of SDR Consulting that started an interesting debate about CGM research on  Marketing Profs that is continuing.  A comment posted from Peter Kim of Forrester points out that the debate itself is CGM. In May, Peter Kim posted that Forrester would be conducting a detailed vendor evaluation of firms providing data and research in this venue which is definitely needed.

Church of the Consumer in a recent post about the "1% Rule" note that the actual on line content is generated by 1% of online participants which further complicates the measurement equation for the meaning of CGM to marketers. This is the age old dilemma in marketing and advertising research: Is the sample representative?

Ultimately, the important factor is influence; or more directly, results. Again Church of the Consumer is right in there with a post about Influence 2.0 which references Jim Nail of Cymphony’s new model. Influence is the subject for another post.

If  content generated online is what a marketer is using to measure the strength of their brand or consumer perceptions of their brand and it is being generated by 1%, how do we know as we "measure" in real time that the  content generated by the 1% is the "work {that} fuels widespread interaction that engages the non-participating community and attracts new ones."

The answer to the question as to the accuracy of  the measurements of word of mouth/ CGM is one that time, experience and hopefully efforts like the  Forrester evaluation will shed some light on  Should we use CGM as measurement? Yes, of course. Just not as THE measurement. Many marketers have ignored word of mouth and CGM and paid a price. However, there really is not one surefire Holy Grail measurement, as much as we would like there to be. And ask any brand manager who has launched a new product based upon focus group research if next time they wouldn’t want to look at some additional measures.

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