Let me start off by saying that I truly believe that this is the first time in history when there really is the possibility of having a two-way dialogue. On the one hand, technology has developed to the point where we actually have tools that enable not just word-of-mouth, but world-of-mouth. On the other hand, we seem to be in an age when people want to speak out and they want to be engaged.
You may have heard this term - world-of-mouth - being used more and more in reference to Social Media. When you stop and think about what these words mean, they really do have a big impact. In a previous posting I mentioned the letter to the editor. Sure, that was an interesting tool and you could potentially have hundreds or even thousands reading your letter on the day that it was published in the paper. With Social Media however, your "letter" can be forwarded, re-posted, and more importantly other people can comment in real-time and a conversation can emerge. Rather than a one-time event, depending on the topic, the interest and even the passion of people, this "letter" could become a cause that thousands support.
To emphasis my point, let's take a real life case. Back in August of this year (2010) Tanner Bawn, a 10 year old from Vancouver, who has muscular dystrophy and is immobile without his electric wheelchair, travelled to New York with his aunt. According to an August 5, 2010, Globe and Mail post, when Tanner and his companions arrived in New York, his wheelchair was damaged beyond repair. This trip was part of a wish request that the terminally ill boy made. Unfortunately Air Canada was not immediately forthcoming to replace the chair. In fact, according to the article, it was going to take several days before they could get a loaner. For Tanner's aunt, this was unacceptable. She knew in order to get results, she would have to take action. She went to Twitter and told her story. A quick Google search for the terms "Air Canada" and "Twitter" and "wheelchair" bring up 112,000 results and if you read the various articles and postings, there are numerous comments within each. This was a public relations nightmare for the airline. Not only did traditional media pick this story up, but it went viral in the Social Media world. (For those not familiar with the term viral, think of how a cold spreads when just one individual coughs in public - it isviral.)
If this were five years ago, or even 10 would this have occurred? In all honestly, likely not. We didn't have the tools and perhaps not the wherewithal either. This is just one example where world-of-mouth occurred and forced an action to take place. Again, this information lives on. Unlike the old letter to the editor, in this new world of marketing and communications, opinions, posts and public relations nightmares live on and on in the digital world. Case in point, one Google search today brought me the full picture of what happened to Tanner almost two months ago in just .19 seconds.
Just think about what world-of-mouth can do to your business, your charity event, or quite frankly to your personal brand when you act or react to each and every event in your day!
In my next posting I will continue to talk about the impact of Social Media and world-of-mouth. In particular, I will review what research is telling us about trust.