Digital Insight

Published on February 8th, 2012 | by Saurabh Pandey

Word of Mouth? Viral? Social ? What’s the difference?

Yesterday while discussing on org structure with a colleague, I came across a topic which propelled me to write this post.

While the discussion hovered around social media and viral/ word of mouth marketing-this led to an interes thought- is viral different than word of mouth and also if viral marketing is a superset of social media marketing.

I very clear understand that social media is not just about distributing content but goes further towards, listening, engagement and collaboration, and that with the leverage of social objects one has an opportunity to make the content interactive and shareable- which implies that viral marketimg is not a superset, infact it just might be the opposite. If you ask me I would rather not compare both.

Anyways this also led to an interesting after thought and I decided to illustrate my thoughts on how WoM, Viral and Social are 3 different phenomenons –with overlaps.

Communication continuum for social platforms

Communication continuum for social platforms

Word of Mouth– When content gets shared from one to few to few and in the process the impact tapers down and eventually dies. So word of mouth never has a mass appeal and has a short life span. It’s like you hear about a good salon from someone and you try it out and further share with a couple of your friends. So word of mouth appears to be –limited in terms of mass appeal, geography/coverage and lifespan.

Viral– When content gets share from few to many. Has a larger appeal/base and has a larger life. The content needs to be interesting and relevant enough to be shared, but it also dies a natural death as the ‘x’ factor dies.

Social- Many to many sharing- very large base/appeal,  long life. And the unique differntiator is that in order for a content to become social the control of content needs to be relinquished or the content should be allowed to remixed, re-purposed. This implies that if an intersting content is open for collaboration in such a way that the content undergoes a change and shared-then it becomes social and has the largest impact and longevity.

Look at the example of the hit song KolaveriD. How various artists and common people re-purposed or remixed or recreated their versions and how in the end it became a global phenomenon and how the popularity of customised versions eventually helped the ‘original’ content become even more popular.

This also implies that we should look at this as a communication continuum wherein a content piece can grow from just being a WoM phenomenon to a Social phenomenon

I thought I should share this thought-process with all the readers and it will be great to have your thoughts as well on this.

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