Thursday, March 10, 2011

Some WOM Considerations

As the marketing landscape continues to reshape and harness the power of the digital world, word of mouth marketing is an increasingly effective approach. If something catches momentum, there are few mediums more effective at getting a message to your target audience that they respond to – both with actual word-of-mouth and digital word-of-mouth.

As I was browsing through some of my favorite blogs recently, I was considering the influence that some authors have over their readership - followed almost blindly in some cases. A trust is built with the audience over time. But in a world where our authors don't always uphold the highest standards of practice, sometimes the content put out there isn't always top quality. And as social media platforms continue to expand, there is increasing room for dubious goings-on and new ethical considerations for best practices – anyone remember “Walmarting Across America”? Now we have celebrities tweeting endorsements at $10K per 140 characters, broked by the firm

If you don’t always find the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines to be a nice relaxing read, there are other places you can look for guidance. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (“WOMMA”) is an official trade association that represents the interests of the word of mouth and social media industry. WOMMA has produced a comprehensive ethical code that is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect industry trends. That code consists of 8 principles that outline best practices:

1. disclosure of identity
2. disclosure of consideration or compensation
3. diclosure of relationship
4. compliance with FTC guidelines
5. honesty in communication
6. respect for venue
7. marketing to children: no inclusion under age of 13 and compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
8. compliance with media-specific rules (regarding children)

Disclosure is obviously, popular with WOMMA (and marketers everywhere interested in responsible practice). These guidelines are necessary because chances are that as soon as a new medium comes along providing opportunity for consumers to be misled, someone will find the inappropriate way to use it. As bloggers and other content creators out there are increasingly visible (don’t we all have a blog now), guidelines for responsible content sharing will continue to be considered and reconsidered until the FTC puts out something more concrete on the subject.

And in full disclosure, I have no actual connection to WOMMA, the FTC, Walmart, or

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