For those of you interested in authenticity in social media promotions, an excellent paper is Network Narratives: Understanding Word of Mouth Marketing in Online Communities by Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki and Wilner in 2010 in the Journal of Marketing. This paper follows a seeded blog promotion for a mobile phone company and how the bloggers spoke about the phone to their audience, and how accepting the audience was of the promotional posts.
This is one of the great bits of the paper: “…communal WOM (Word of Mouth Marketing) does not simply increase or amplify marketing messages: rather marketing messages are systemically altered in the process of embedding them.” Marketers often see WOM as amplification of their prepared marketing messages (like a megaphone). But people who generate WOM don’t do that. They alter the product-related message to suit themselves, their audience and the specific context in which the message is delivered.
My take on this is that WOM is like a blender–people talking about your product will say whatever they like and mix it in with other ingredients they like–because their goal to promote the product is secondary to their goal of being an effective communicator.
Proponents of authenticity, like myself, would argue that authenticity is a key factor in whether a WOM message is accepted. I read “Network Narratives” with a view to authenticity and then wrote a little bit about it and presented my findings at the Service Management and Science Forum in Las Vegas in August 2013. My paper is called Network Narratives Revisited.
Authenticity, and the desire to seem authentic and credible, plays a role in how the seeded blog messages were accepted by the blog audiences. Kozinet’s analyses did not mention authenticity explicitly all the way through, but a 360da demonstrates that authenticity follows his model closely.
The contribution of this secondary analysis is twofold. First, using a 360da tool is a great way marketers and bloggers embarking on their WOM journey can consider and craft their promotional posts. Marketers should approach generating WOM and authenticity deliberately and use every tool at hand to try as best they can to craft the kinds of messages they are looking for.
The second contribute of revisiting this paper is the recognition that WOM analyses on authenticity do not follow the expected construct for personal communication. Rather WOM is perceived similarly to advertising form an authenticity perspective. So for bloggers to seem more authentic to their audience, they may have to be more deliberate (like an advertisement) rather than natural (like a conversation).