Having recently read Jennifer Egan’s fantastic novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, (recommend highly) I was struck by the author’s vision of the future of our society. In some ways Egan describes a beautiful and simplistic future where meaningful relationships still lie at the heart of happiness but in other, less optimistic character arcs, it sets a scene that sent shudders through me.
The author creates a prophecy of the world in which word of mouth marketing is key to the success of any business venture. Apt of course because, as we all know, this is true today, the most powerful form of marketing IS and always has been, word of mouth. A trusted recommendation (like mine for this particular novel perhaps?) is worth a hundred times more than a shop or website recommendation, suggesting something that you may or may not like. By taking on board word of mouth endorsements, you are cutting down the barrier between consumer and product and a trusted bond has already been established and an openness to suggestion already there.
In a dystopian future, seemingly good friends will become paid brand ambassadors and begin manipulating their trusted position and influence on others to push products secretly and slyly. This is of course is not a new idea and has existed in many forms for years and years, but the potential sinister use of social media and online influence as described by the author, gave me a new outlook on how companies are changing the way we are marketed to on a daily basis.
Facebook of course is the main architect for this type of marketing. As we share more and more ‘likes’, we open ourselves up to more and more influence from companies who want to sell us things. Friends liking something will lead us to acknowledge this and then influence our own purchasing decisions whether or not we are aware of this or not.
Now, not wanting to be the harbinger of doom, it’s not all bad out there. By using social media networks to market to your customers you are of course provided with a free platform to communicate from. You get to know your clients, you learn about your customers’ needs and wants and as a result, you specialise your work and create niches and a bespoke service that benefits everyone.
And it’s fair to say, I truly believe in the advantages of word of mouth marketing. It is highly effective and I benefit from it myself through my own business but I would always push to maintain transparency to consumers in all respects. This is where forums and online communities come in to their own. By enabling word of mouth style marketing through an online and open community, you can create something incredibly powerful and useful for everyone. These tools have had a massively positive influence on how businesses operate their online work today and put everybody on a level playing field in an increasingly competitive market.