Role of Social Media in Creating Word of Mouth and Customer Experience

by Paul Williams

Role of Social Media in Creating Word of Mouth and Customer ExperienceWhat’s the role of social media in creating Word of Mouth (WOM)?

You could say there are two parts to WOM – the analog and the digital.

  • Analog is person to person… face to face. I’ll also put written and print media into the analog category.
  • Digital WOM is converted and stored in a format that can be sent and re-sent electronically.

Social media refers to tools that allow us to easily spread the story electronically, digitally. Like a pyramid marketing scheme I tell my network, and they tell theirs, and they tell theirs… Social media tools (blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc) make the spread easy.

In fact, I may have to contradict my earlier statements indicating that Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin are the father’s of Word of Mouth (WOM).

The REAL Originators of Word Of Mouth

I think the folks who wrote the Faberge Organics Shampoo commercials in the 80s invented it.

Do you remember those ads?

If you tell two friends about Faberge Organics shampoo with wheat germ oil and honey, they’ll tell two friends, and so on… and so on… and so on…

Sorry about the poor quality – this is all I could find.


(Feed Link For Faberge Commercial)

Has the focus of Social Media had a negative effect on the Customer Experience?

I’ll say potentially, YES. Marketers dazzled by the shiny object that social media is, may think they’ve solved their communication problem – or are engaging in a ‘meaningful’ way because – for example – they’ve created a Facebook Fan Page for their business.

False Sense Of Security

Let me pick on one of my favorite brands, Starbucks Coffee, as an example. Specifically, their “My Starbucks Idea” website. Through this site, Starbucks welcomes everyone to submit product, program, design, service, or ANY idea.

The My Starbucks Idea home page declares:

“You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What’s your Starbucks Idea? Revolutionary or simple – we want to hear it. Share your ideas, tell us what you think of other people’s ideas and join the discussion. We’re here, and we’re ready to make ideas happen.”

  • Starbucks thinks they are listening.
  • Customers think Starbucks is listening, and taking action.
  • Starbucks thinks they’ve “checked the box” (to some extent) in being a social media player by having this site.
  • Power to the people!

However, if you look at the “milestone” of the 50 Ideas Launched and Still Counting! – celebrating customer ideas implemented – Starbucks has technically only implemented six (6) ideas submitted by customers. If you dig into it – as John has on his Brand Autopsy site in his Tough Love For Starbucks post – you’ll see that most ideas were already in the works, would have been done anyway, or aren’t even customer-facing ideas (e.g. Employee discount on work clothes).

A problem with social media is that companies may think – simply by participating in the trend – that they’re meeting customer need. Starbucks has invested in this suggestion site and believe they are checking the “we care and listen to customers” box. They think they’ve fulfilled the portion of their strategy, that supports the objective: to “Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.”

Starbucks isn’t being as democratic with ideas as they claim (and think) they are. It really isn’t “power to the people.” Social media (or maybe improper use of social media) is giving Starbucks a false sense of security.

Social media isn’t for everyone. To “engage in meaningful conversation” may actually mean a conversation. A face-to-face, human-to-human dialogue. For example, the kind a barista can have with a customer at Starbucks.

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Paul WilliamsPaul Williams is a professional problem solver at Idea Sandbox. He can help you create remarkable ideas to grow your business. You may read more at his website and find him Twittering as @IdeaSandbox.

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