Call me a stickler for proper language usage, a cantankerous old goat, or an old-fashioned traditionalist, but I happen to think that it's important not to dumb down social discourse through the improper use of terminology, poor spelling ("I 8 dinner 2nite"), and lousy grammar. But I get it, the emergence of texting, which is rapidly supplanting email among youth, seduces one rather quickly into a lazy writing modality which, for want of a better description, may more appropriate be referred to as 'de-texting,' in the sense of its efficiency at deconstructing language. When was the last time you texted a complete and accurately-written sentence, devoid of abbreviations and childish emoticons? I rest my case.  Making matters worse is the growing number of commentators who, as commentators are wont to do, comment on various aspects related to social media and connected marketing who bandy about terms without seeming to have clear insight into what it is they are talking about. Case in point - if it has anything to do with social media it is described as 'viral.'

Definitions are important because they provide us with a common ground for discussion. A conversation about word of mouth isn't going to get very far if the discussants are operating from different perspectives on what WOM is. I usually begin my presentations about WOM with George Silverman's definition from his book The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, in that it is typical, but also problematic:

A good start, one highlighting the fact that WOM may be positive or negative in nature.  But what about neutral?  For example, say I hear from a neighbor that our local satellite TV/cable provider is about to change its name.  Most of us would agree that is WOM - I have been informally provided with news about a local service company that I personally do not find positive or negative in connotation.  Silverman also points out that WOM is characterized by 'personal communication,' yet isn't it true that WOM conveyed by anonymous posters at an online chat forum is in fact 'impersonal'?  And although it is true that most WOM is disseminated outside of commercial ties, how then do we describe brand advocacy programs, which involve people spreading positive recommendations because they have been incentivized with free products, gifts, or payment?

WOMMA skirts some of these problems inherent in Silverman's definition by defining WOM more broadly:

Although many pundits use the terms 'WOM" and "buzz" as synonyms, Emmanuel Rosen's (The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited) clarifies:

Who can argue with WOMMA and Rosen?  Successful WOM marketing (WOMM) results in plenty of buzz.  So what is WOMM?  Last week, WOMMA contributor Pat McCarthy provided 'the simplest definition of word of mouth marketing":


So now that we know what we're talking about, what are the basic principles underlying successful WOMM?  There are two simple ways to find the answer: (1) by reading my book Connecting With Consumers and (2) by watching this short WOMMA video.

In a nutshell, WOMMA identified 5 basic principles of WOMM: