People As Media? Yes & No
Word-of-mouth effectiveness is based on the assumed spontaneity, sincerity, independence and unbiased nature of the brand support offered by a “private individual” to other potentially interested individuals. Credibility by values.
However, the increasing proliferation and audience expansion of social media is changing the rules of the traditional word-of-mouth game.
Private personalities are now being replaced by “want-to-be-famous” personages whose credibility is supposedly authenticated by the sheer number of social media followers. Credibility by volume.
In both cases, the definition of “people as media” theoretically applies equally, but with one key difference. In the case of “Word of Mouth,” the essential media values of sincerity, independence and lack of bias are fully fulfilled and honoured. While in “Influencer Marketing,” those values are compromised, and even contradicted, by a brand’s remunerative commercial agreements with so-called “influencers.” Hmm, another buzz word in the ever-evolving world of marketing?
The original values and independence of “word of mouth” are even further compromised by the development in “Influencer Marketing”: Artificial Intelligence-generated virtual influencers: marketing controlled “creatures”, with no need of remuneration…
One inescapable conclusion of this on-going evolution from “Word-of-Mouth” to “Influencer” is that there is a clear opportunity for brandstory clients! To reactivate the values principles of genuine “WoM” marketing - by leveraging their employees’ natural predisposition to share with family, friends and business colleagues their “pride of belonging”… enabled by the power of a well-conceived strategic brand story!