Online/Offline Word of Mouth Bibliography Ready for Review and Additions

More than a year ago, a group of WOMMA members got together, curious to answer the question, “What is the interaction between online and offline word of mouth?” We knew about the Keller Fay research pointing to the dominance of offline word of mouth and we were living through the social media revolution—personally and professionally. Our hypothesis was that offline word of mouth trickled online and social media found its way to face-to-face conversations.


Our search quickly revealed that few marketers had explored this question. We felt that we would do a great service to the larger WOMMA community by pulling together a bibliography of key studies and publications that explored this topic. In this document, you will find a broad range of studies, including:

·         Comparison of online and offline word of mouth (BzzAgent, Brains on Fire, Keller Fay, Peres and Shacha, S. Radoff)

·         Offline activities’ impact on social media and search behavior (Cheema, iProspect , Lauren F. Sessions)

·         Social media’s impact on offline consumer decisions (Chintagunta et al., Godes and Mayzlin)


In addition, we conducted a survey* among our members to see how they approached the topic and measured online/offline word of mouth. We found out that while they measure both types of conversations separately, a sub-set looks at the impact of online buzz on offline initiatives and vice versa. Among WOMMA members:

  • 45% measure online buzz to capture the impact of offline word of mouth campaigns
  • 35% measure offline marketing communications’ impact on online word of mouth about brands

We hope that as the word of mouth marketing field matures, marketers find innovative ways to track results across online and offline platforms, and refer to the studies included in our bibliography as guideposts.


I would like to thank Dr. Walter Carl, Brad Fay, Bithika Mehta, Martin Oetting, Tarah Remington, Jasper Snyder, and Jeanie Son for all their contributions and their ongoing dedication to the project. As the online/offline word of mouth committee, we also appreciate WOMMA’s academic advisors’ input.


We present you with the online/offline word of mouth bibliography and invite you to join our conversation. We welcome your feedback and additions.


*Survey results are representative of WOMMA’s member base, and should be used directionally when talking about the broader marketer universe.


** This post has also been published on WOMMA’s All Things WOM blog.

Posted via email from dotwom’s posterous

Legal Expertise Needed!

Increasing brand presence in social media calls for help from legal departments. As brands step into open commentary space, they need to protect their name as well as the rights of those consumers creating content on their company sponsored pages. The latest updates to FTC guidelines–which insist on disclosure of all material connections and hold marketers liable for false information that may transpire as a result of their social media programs–are all the more reason to get professional legal advice before launching an online campaign.

As social media is still an evolving marketing area, many marketers and their counselors are challenged by the absence of precedents. New tools and functionalities pop up almost every day. Existing platforms, such as Facebook, may change their rules as they go along, responding to public criticism. Moreover, content ownership in social media remains a gray area, where one company provides the frame (e.g., Facebook), another sponsors the area (e.g., your brand) and audience creates the content.

Here are some suggestions that can increase collaboration between marketing teams and their legal advisors, while helping brands navigate social media waters as safely as possible:

1-                   Disclosure should be top priority. Include the necessary statements in your social media communications and Web areas to abide by the FTC guidelines. Refer to disclosure statements suggested by WOMMA. Consider adopting a system such as, which provides an FTC-compliant software platform to organize all communications between a brand, bloggers and other social media participants.

2-                   If you are signing contracts with bloggers, spell out the terms of disclosure as part of the deal.

3-                   If employees are likely to chime into social media discussions about your brand, provide them with the necessary training and information so they know how to disclose their relationship with the brand.

4-                   Work with legal teams at Facebook, Twitter and other popular communities. It is best to go to the very source and ask. Often times, their rules of communication and participation will be laid out under ‘about us’ or ‘corporate’ sections of their Web sites.

5-                   Encourage all of your team members (i.e., brand marketers and legal) to familiarize themselves with the tools you are deploying. You can have more fruitful discussions, if everyone understands the social media tools’ basic functionality.

6-                   Speedy response is critical in social media communications. Before launching a project, arrange a core set of team members including a legal counselor who can be on-call to evaluate questionable comments.

7-                   You do have (some) control of content in branded areas. When planting your brand’s flag in social media and creating areas dedicated to your topics, communicate your rules of communication to your audience. You may reserve the right to remove inappropriate postings. If you are planning to use consumer-generated media in corporate promotions (e.g., ads, releases, etc.) be sure to indicate this as well. 

Posted via email from dotwom’s posterous

Join WOMMA’s Webinar on New FTC Regulations

Yesterday, FTC announced new regulations that will impact the way companies have been communicating with bloggers. According to the new regulations (which we had been expecting for a while), bloggers are asked to disclose any material connections they may have with a company, if they are writing on the products and services they received from that organization. Fair? Absolutely. Tricky? Yes.

I don’t think anyone in their right mind would argue against the importance of having honest conversations with bloggers and other consumers online. I would like to think that we are past the point of considering fake blogs, paid and undisclosed posts as smart marketing initiatives. Consumers will figure it out. You will lose their trust. Most importantly, you will lose their business.

However, I do think we will all need to be extra careful to make sure consumers know about the conversations between brand representatives and bloggers. We are always open and transparent about who we represent when we speak with bloggers. We always ask that their readers know how they are able to try products and where they get their information. But we obviously do not control what they write. Nor would we ever tell them how to write a post. (Would you tell Mossberg how to write his column??)

The FTC guideline is pretty clear on this: do not post without full disclosure. But, is it enough for a brand to ask bloggers that they disclose the source of their trial product? Will we need more structured and possibly legal communications with bloggers when we invite them to join programs? Does a coupon or a discount offer constitute material connection?

There will be much discussion on these types of questions in the coming days. I have a feeling we’ll learn on a case by case basis, as blogger networks evolve and offer new business models. For now, the best thing to do is to over-communicate about blogger relations and brand connections… and to join WOMMA’s upcoming Webinar with the organization’s general counsel Tony DiResta on October 8th. Info on how to attend here at

WOMMA Updates Ethics Code

After much deliberation, WOMMA has updated a critical phrase in its ethics code as follows:

“We stand against marketing practices whereby the marketer or its representatives provide goods, services or compensation to the consumer to make recommendations, reviews or endorsements without full, meaningful, and prominent disclosure.”

A final version of the Code can be found here.

WOMMA is also encouraging all of its members and the larger WOMM community to contribute to the ongoing discussion about ethics. If you like, you can join the conversation here.

WOMMA Releases Forecast Report

Hot off the press! WOMMA just released a new study in partnership with PQ Media. It’s a forecast study that provides an in-depth perspective on the state of the industry, spending levels and key players. I am printing (all 100+ pages) as we speak. The take away is that the industry has been growing at incredible speed despite the recession. Many brands have shifted dollars from traditional marketing channels to word of mouth. CPG companies have the lead in spending, but automotive, financial and b-to-b players follow suit. The report includes 40+ case studies. Definitely worth reading.

Here is a link to the press release, which includes top level findings. To purchase a full copy of the report, click here.

Word of Mouth Marketing University 2009 – Practical, Tactical, Inspirational

Chances are you know you need to dip into social media. You have your strategy down. You need to elevate your brand’s profile using smart online tools, establish rapport with moms online, or simply: turn news into sales. There are a myriad of conferences out there, but let me recommend you one where you are guaranteed to hear about social media who have branded this space: YouTube, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, among others.

You are wondering when, how or if to use Twitter? Attend one of the workshop sessions and learn from ‘practitioner professors’ who carry brands online on a daily basis.

You would like to reach out to your online influencers. Where to begin? Get one-on-one advice from the Keller Fay Group. They track all of the conversations Americans have offline and online. They know who the catalysts are.

You wonder how Wal-Mart, Dell, Lenovo, Disney and Heinz fuel word of mouth? Hear it from the professionals behind the brands – not just their agencies.

Why am I so passionate about WOMM-U?

Because I think there is a void for practical, sound advice in this space.

Because I think we all know the importance of word of mouth and social media. It’s a matter of how we do it and where we start.

Because we all need to create noteworthy campaigns and tell remarkable stories that will move the masses in this economy.

I always walked out of a WOMMA event, having learned from the best. I had read Emanuel Rosen’s Anatomy of Buzz. But I had the pleasure of meeting him at a WOMMA conference. (And you should absolutely read his updated version, Anatomy of Buzz Revisited.) I met Affinitive at a WOMMA conference, a great partner firm that specializes in building social networks. I learned more about what MomCentral does, not because they were presenting but because their VP of research was sitting next to me at a session. I listened to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and Comcast’s Frank Eliason at the last conference. I follow them on Twitter–and as true WOM advocates, they follow me back.

I work with colleagues, and even competitors, on WOMMA’s board – we all believe this is the most trusted, authentic and reliable medium in today’s information landscape.

I hope you join us in Miami on May 13-14.