Are you serious about incentivizing WOM?

Jack Blog

January 30th, 2012 By Jack Morton

A lot of companies and brands will willingly sing the same song as Jack Morton’s New Realities 2012 research: word-of-mouth (WOM) is the most powerful form of advertising. But is your brand really serious about incentivizing WOM among your customer base?, a daily deals site focused on design, has taken an aggressive approach showing that it is deathly — dollars and cents — serious about its peer-to-peer recommendation engine.

Through the option presented to users in this menu panel on the site, offers users $10 credits every month just for sharing their purchases on Facebook and their usernames (not even their real names) on the site. Clearly, is finding out, and putting money behind, what EventBrite, GE and Rubbermaid have issued studies showing: Socializing commerce can lead to some serious ROI.  
Yet, there are still generally two schools of thought when it comes to incentivized WOM:
  1. Consumers aren’t stupid. They get that when you ask them to “like” something on Facebook or rate a brand on Yelp, they are acting as your company’s best (and free) source of advertising. They expect to be recognized (compensated) for helping you out.
  2. Your brand should be good enough that people want to rave about you. Compensating them for their efforts makes the WOM illegitimate and consumers know when their friends are essentially acting as paid spokespeople for your brand.

Emerging somewhere in between is a more fluid, less black and white way of asking consumers to spread the word. We’re not talking about a pay-per-review program that’s going to lead to a Belkin-like horror story. is part of a new crop of sites that are finding ways to reward customers for embracing a broader social layer over their entire shopping (and yes, buying) experience. In other words, it’s a new crop of brands that have made the decision to invest in its consumers’ brand experiences, instead of spending on pushy messaging that consumers tune out.

In a world when sites like are willing to pay up in a big way to get consumers talking, marketers have to start asking themselves some big questions. How serious is your brand about making its WOM engine work harder for your marketing objectives? How will you create a brand experience worth talking about?