General / PRSSA

Social Media: The Modern Word of Mouth

By: Callie Forkenbrock, PRSSA PR Director

“The evolution of the public relations industry has unquestionably helped businesses establish trust and credibility with customers. However, there’s one aspect of marketing that has withstood the test of time – word of mouth marketing.” – Mark Hollander, Vice President of Iowa PRSSA

Hollander makes an accurate point in his most recent FOCUS blog post by saying that word of mouth marketing still remains the most reliable aspect of public relations in our now technology-based world.  However, we can view social media as simply a new facet to word of mouth marketing.  It’s rare to see a company or organization today without a “Like us on Facebook!” or “Follow us on Twitter!” appeal in every ad or on every box.  Social media has become a way for the public to constantly check up on an organization and for organizations to stay constantly in touch with their customers.  It is undeniably a function of word of mouth.  Social media can actually be viewed as a more efficient part of word of mouth; it’s more controllable, more trackable, and definitely more public.  With society becoming so technologically reliant, it’s necessary for an organization to utilize social media marketing within their public relations plan.

Specifically with Twitter, it is possible for an organization to create lists to keep in contact with certain customers using “hashtags”, word(s) preceded by a pound sign to identify specific topics.  This allows social media to be as personal as possible by creating a way for organizations to keep up conversationally with the public.  Specifically with hashtags, organizations can create one for their users to post on their own accounts in order to track and enter conversations about its products or services.  As Hollander mentioned in his word of mouth article, “word of mouth marketing still remains the most trusted resource for promoting your company.”  The same can be said about social media in regards to word of mouth marketing; the only difference being that social media is a more instantaneous way for an organization to enact promotions and public relations.

However, social media marketing does pose a small risk.  It is possible for an organization’s social media manager to unwisely post something inappropriate that then goes viral.  For example, SpaghettiOs’ tweet to remember Pearl Harbor became a huge controversy seeing as they posted a picture of a smiling SpaghettiO standing with an American flag.  However, this was easily cleared up from an apology tweet sent by SpaghettiOs.  That being said, this risk is an infrequent price to pay for all the benefits this type of word of mouth has to offer.

In his word of mouth article, Hollander explains that through word of mouth, businesses need to provide great services, great value, and an excellent atmosphere and product.  Each of these components can be applied to social media marketing.  In fact, social media marketing is almost a better version of word of mouth marketing in that it’s simply more instant and timely.