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Careers: WOM and Personal Branding

Word of mouth marketing, the power of everyday citizens to talk up – or down – a brand is on a roll.  If you ever doubted its power and reach, take a step back for a minute to April of this year when a no-name blogger outed Sen. Barack Obama for his now infamous “bitter remarks.” The bittergate story changed the political landscape and for a time upended Obama’s campaign.

Word of mouth marketing, the power of everyday citizens to talk up – or down – a brand is on a roll.

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 If you ever doubted its power and reach, take a step back for a minute to April of this year when a no-name blogger outed Sen. Barack Obama for his now infamous “bitter remarks.” The bittergate story changed the political landscape and for a time upended Obama’s campaign.

While word of mouth is certainly not new, smart brands, agencies and personal branders, not to mention politicians, are taking up the WOM cudgel as never before and making it a strategic part of marketing.

That’s because the Internet has spiked WOM’s reach. Call it the power of everyday folks to help make or break a brand.

Or as branding expert Adam Kleinberg,  CEO of advertising and marketing agency Traction puts it, “Marketing is not just a conversation between a brand and consumer but between individual consumers. It’s no longer just one-way communication but two-way communication.”

In the old days, if you had an opinion, you told your friends. Then came the Internet and social media, and suddenly anyone had access to a worldwide megaphone to air his or her opinion. Smart marketers are recognizing that ordinary consumers want to express their thought and passions – and enabling that.

“Social media,” says Kleinberg, “is all about giving people a chance to realize that ‘what I say’ matters.”

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Kleinberg’s company, for example, created a Facebook community for a new product called Livescribe, an audio pen gizmo geared to students. A case study in how to grow a successful brand online, Livescribe’s Facebook page grew to more than 10,000 people in just 45 days. The secret? An adroit combination of new and old media, including a clever viral video to encourage students to identify with the brand, a promotional giveaway for joining the Livescribe community and an opportunity for community members to talk about themselves and the product.

“We’re allowing people to interact with a brand,” says Kleinberg. “In a sense we’ve created a ‘circle of life’ for a brand. People enter the community and see how excited others are about the product and these new members in turn inspire others.” The proof of course is ultimately in the numbers.  Livescribe had 9,000 people get on the pre-order list before their pens were even on sale.

“At the end of the day, social media is about allowing people to create their own content online,” says Kleinberg. “Social media’s greatest strength is to get people who are passionate about your brand interacting with it. The operative word is interactive.”

What are you doing to get people to interact with your brand? I’d love to hear from you.

Wendy Marx, Peronal Branding and PR Specialist, Marx Communications, Inc.

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About the author

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning boutique B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives, including start-ups, into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx and on Google+ @ plus.google.com/+wendymarx.

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