Point of View: Conversation signposting

Molly Flatt

'Word of mouth’ is the least important part of word-of-mouth. Bear with me.

WOM is valuable only because of what causes it, and because of what it drives. The conversation about conversation is still too focused on ‘buzz', rather than an investigation of innovative strategies that will shift what consumers feel and do, not just how they talk.

Emotion is the root cause of word-of-mouth. Conversation about brands and products occurs when we feel something strongly enough to want to share. Many marketers make the mistake of focusing on spreading the conversation – pushing a press release to bloggers, or asking people to retweet a link – rather than stimulating the emotion behind it.

Conversation without emotion is meaningless, and of limited value to a brand; the whole reason we turn to our peers, not PRs, for word-of-mouth is because of that personal engagement, that opinionated slant that makes a recommendation relevant and influential. Neutral or regurgitated, WOM may boost a brand's visibility (although even that is questionable, considering the deluge of content out there), but it is unlikely to change behaviour.