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Author: Kate MacArthur
This article originally appeared on the Chicago Tribune
As a public relations executive, Suzanne Fanning used word-of-mouth marketing to inspire crafters and gardeners to be passionate about the Fiskars brand. She later worked for Spectrum Brands Incs Remington hair and grooming unit and direct seller Amway Corps Nutrilite vitamins and Artistry cosmetics brands. Fanning, now president of the Chicago-based Word of Mouth Marketing Association, will give the keynote address on the future of going social at Social Media Week Chicago on Tuesday. She explains where the industry is headed and the importance of the word in innovation.
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Q. How has your mission evolved from bringing ethics and credibility to word-of-mouth marketing?
A. Now we focus on not only ethics, which still is the cornerstone of what we do, but education and training, public advocacy and demonstrating value. This year, we’re working with brands and agencies to determine the value of a consumer conversation, (doing) a six-figure study. We’ll release it in November at our summit in Los Angeles. We think we’ll make people realize how totally powerful the consumer conversation is.
Q. Is proving the value of word of mouth the biggest industry challenge?
A. It is definitely one of the biggest. The most important thing is making sure that you’re using it correctly and you’re measuring the right thing. When people judge their success by the number of likes, that’s just an activity metric. People really need to focus on engagement. It’s about people recommending (a brand to their) friends and being an advocate for a company for honest, genuine purposes, not because they’re being paid to say something.
Q. Where do you see the next wave of innovation?
A. Companies need to worry less that This is my Facebook or Twitter strategy and more This is my people strategy, because, as we’ve seen, platforms change.
Q. What’s your advice for better engagement?
A. Know your consumers. Provide the content they want. I tell companies to ask three questions: Who are my fans, where are my fans and why are they my fans? A recent study has shown us that the three main triggers to share content are emotional, functional and social.
Things that people are really emotional about, they’re going to want to share. Functional is this is how you cook this or fix that. People want to elevate their position in their social circle, (meaning) I’m going to want to share information from some company I follow because it will make me look better to my people.
Q. How have you approached risk and failure?
A. The things that I’m the most proud of in my career all started with someone telling me no. It can’t be done. They started with, You’re insane, and that will never work.
If people don’t tell you no, you’re probably not being innovative enough.
Q. How did you get past the no?
A. Sharing examples is the most powerful thing. I say, Look at this example from Coca-Cola and this example from as Hardware. You can show how something works in a big way and a small way. You can take key elements of their campaign and say, This is why it’s successful, how they’re connecting and you can see it worked incredibly. If we reach people in a different way, we’re going to be able to achieve scaled results for us.
Q&As are edited for length and clarity.
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