At Stream, I helped facilitate a great session with Jory Des Jardins (co-founder of BlogHer) and Christine Cea (Director of Brand PR, Unilever) entitled After the One Night Stand – How To Get Beyond Buzz and Create Sustained WOM Programs. Our session focused on this challenge from three perspectives: the agency, the client, and the partner.
Getting Beyond the Campaign Think One of the biggest challenges in creating sustained WOM programs is that budgets and mindsets are locked into campaign cycles. This mentality is not conducive to social media programs, which are centered around creating a long-term, open ended dialogue with online stakeholders. While some WOM programs are specifically designed for short-term deployment, many others stop simply because the campaign the social media effort was attached to ended. Unilever has broken out of this with respect to social media by creating a taskforce that provides leadership and oversight for all social media efforts across brands. Many other companies have started hiring in-house social media experts who serve a similar purpose. On the agency side, we discussed selling the program you want to execute for your client. While you may be planning for a campaign that occurs over a finite period of time - build in a budget to maintain the relationship.
At present, few companies are set up internally to handle the "soft costs" associated with a sustained WOM campaign - from running a Twitter handle, to playing a community manager role. The ideal solution for brands at the moment is to have their agencies transparently assist in co-managing these aspects of the campaign, and, through trainings, help brands create internal capacity that can take on more of these responsibilities in the long term.
Understanding Audience Behavior and Partner Advantages
Rooting your WOM program in robust audience and partner research is another key ingredient in creating sustained programs. On the research side, understanding your target audiences online behaviors helps you craft a program they will want to engage with continuously. Choosing the right partner can afford you a deeper level of community understanding - as they are intimately familiar with not only metrics on their audience, but also smaller nuances that can help make your campaign a long-term success.
Optimizing a Program for the Long Haul
What works in Month 1, might not work in month 6 - so planning a program that evolves is key. There are two ways to make sure you're ready. The first is laying out a value exchange - understand what a brand can do for the campaign/influencers, and what the campaign/influencers can do for the brand over the long term. Make sure your value exchange is solid, and offers value as time goes by. Building on that concept, optimization is the second key. Don't build a cathedral and walk away - make sure the agency and the brand are involved in week to week fine tuning that ensures the campaign stays strong and meets needs.
Demonstrating Value Through Measurement
And what would our discussion have been without a long conversation on measurement?? All present agreed that measurement, and demonstrating the long term value of social media was integral to creating sustained WOM programs. I shared Ogilvy's Conversation Impact measurement model, which maps to the marketing funnel and focuses on metrics like reach (that tie out to existing marcom efforts), as well as engagement and action - which is where WOM programs can uniquely add value. Additionally, integrating social media measurement into brand's existing measurement reports helps demonstrate where social is adding value and can help make the case for longer-term planning and execution.
What are other obstacles to creating sustained WOM Programs, and how can collectively overcome them?