Color Bars

San Diego Social Media Symposium: It’s About Genuine Consumer Experiences

In trying to describe word-of-mouth marketing and social media as a tool to achieve that means to clients, friends and family alike, I often use the 1970s Faberge shampoo commercial as an example – “they tell two friends, and so on . . .”

Besides giving away my age, people seem to understand the word-of-mouth concept of consumers delivering advice on products, brands or issues on to other consumers.  Back in the day, those peer-to-peer endorsements were shared over dinner, at the office water cooler or coffee pot, the front porch or Little League. When the Smiths down the corner thought the Italian bakery on Center Street was a slice of Italy, they told their two friends, and so on, and word spread gradually – days, weeks, maybe even months.  The same thing would happen when the Fitzgeralds felt they got the sham on their oil change at the local gas station.

What the Smiths and Fitzgeralds (I grew up in an old Irish neighborhood) shared was an experience, something they felt compelled to share with others – no other motivation than to give someone close to them some great advice and to forewarn.

Today, with the Internet and all its social media outlets, we’re talking a matter of hours and even minutes, and not just with the families in the row houses on your block.  An elated Mrs. Smith and PO’d Mr. Fitzgerald can reach entire communities locally and globally.  The bakery can sell out of cannolis overnight; the gas station can become vacant.

It’s precisely what John Moore, WOMMA’s chief evangelist, implored upon the audience at our inaugural San Diego Social Media Symposium: Give consumers a great experience, and they’ll share it with others.  Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  But how many brands or organizations realize that? And how many others make the effort to look deep inside at the experience they’re giving consumers?  Moreover, how many are willing to change when they discover the experience they thought they were providing wasn’t what consumers were receiving?

By experience, Moore points out, look at how Howard Schultz at Starbucks views it: It’s an emotional connection built on human connections, connecting with consumers who will drive future growth.  Moore also talks about Southwest Airlines and all its quirky behaviors from flight attendants to the pilots – and the no-fee baggage message is off the charts.  Consumers identify with it and share the experience with others.

Don’t buy the experience platform?  Here’s some valuable data from Moore:

•    76 percent of US consumers don’t believe companies are truthful in advertising.
•    78 percent (globally) trust recommendations from other consumers.

That notion alone should freak out every CEO and board chairman and force them into what Moore calls “Becoming a Talkable Brand” – the inside-out approach from which consumers talk about your brands, products, services in a genuine manner.  But don’t expect consumers to quickly and easily become your champion.  Spend time listening to them.  You may find you have to reinvent yourself on their terms.  When you do, you might discover you have evangelists creating the buzz you crave so much.

More to come this week on the symposium.  Meanwhile, download the tweets transcript (pdf) at

Update, Oct. 29, 2009: Check out the panelist videos and read “Social Media is About Staying Relevant” for more insight from the symposium.

« | »