ENDORSEMENTS AND VIRAL BUZZ

Google India posted an advertisement on YouTube on November 13, 2013. Here is the gist of the advertisement: a man in Delhi tells his granddaughter about his childhood friend, Yusuf. He has not seen

Yusuf since the Partition of India in 1947, when India and Pakistan became separate countries, and the two friends were forced to separate. The man’s granddaughter arranges for the two to meet again.22 It is a 3 minute, 32 second advertisement that would be considered too long for a conventional advertisement. It shows the Google products being used in a “use case," and it attracted more than 3 million viewers in the first three days it was posted.

Google posted the video as a content to share. A number of blogs and news items covered the story in the next day or so, and the stories started to appear in other social media sites. As viewers watched the video, they felt touched by it and started to share it in their own personal pages, each of these links reinforcing the traffic to YouTube, where the original video was posted. This is a great example of endorsement and viral buzz. It would take an enormous advertising budget to hit 3 million views of an advertisement in the first three days in traditional media. It is also important to note that advertisement content is driving the viral buzz. Google India has produced several advertisements in the past, mostly communicating product information.23 While the story buildup in the reunion advertisement took a lot longer, it is immensely more popular than the straitjacket advertisements.

Consumers have already discovered social media as their platform for sharing product information. In that case, how would a consumer deal with a poor service quality experience? An IBM Global Telecom Consumer survey was conducted with a sample size of 10,177.24 In this survey, 78 percent of the consumers surveyed in the mature markets said they avoided providers with whom friends or family had had a bad experience. The percentage was even higher (87%) in growth markets. In response to a related question, they said that they informed friends and family about their poor experiences (73% in mature markets and 85% in growth markets). These numbers together show a strong influence of social networks on purchase behavior. These are highly significant percentages, and are now increasingly augmented by social media sites (e.g., the “Like” button placed on Facebook). The same survey also found that the three most preferred sources for recommendation information are the Internet, recommendations from family / friends, and social media.

In response, marketers have started to embrace expert advisers to support their claims. Amazon has one of the most elaborate reviewer networks. Each reviewer is rated based on the number of reviews he/ she has done and how often they were read, liked, and used by others in their purchase decisions. It is an honor to be ranked high on their review list, and Amazon offers that information as a way to emphasize the credibility of the reviews. Lisa Mancuso, senior vice president of marketing for Fisher-Price, talked about the company’s ambassador program in an interview with Forbes magazine: “We know that more than two-thirds of mothers consider blogs to be a reliable resource for parenting information, so we have created a robust program to connect with parenting bloggers around the world. We call them our Play Ambassadors"25 Such programs, when actively integrated with social media accounts, give organizations the capability to start differentiating themselves in their ability to converse with customers.

The buzz created via blogs, both positive as well as negative, can be measured and used for fine-tuning a product or messaging. I will discuss in chapter 7 how marketers are using social media command centers to collect, analyze, and act upon the social media activities associated with their brands.

 
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