Using Word of Mouth in Your Business Web Marketing

The best and cheapest form of advertising is word of mouth. A product — or a website — can have no stronger recommendation than the approval of a trusted friend. Fortunately, the web now offers such word-of-web opportunities as social sharing options.

Old-fashioned “Tell a Friend” scripts allow site visitors to e-mail others a link to your site. The message arrives from the sender’s e-mail address, not yours, making recipients more likely to open it. Best of all, Tell a Friend is another no-brainer for onsite marketing. It’s cost-effective and generally low maintenance unless you're offering a reward.

Depending on your site, you might want to rename the feature according to your target audience: Tell a Colleague, Tell a Bride, or Tell a Hiker, for example. Tell a Friend functionality has now mostly been replaced by social sharing functionality, of which e-mail is only one of many choices.

A Share button, such as the one from New Mexico Creates shown in the following illustration, allows users to quickly recommend your site on their own accounts on multiple social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, or submit it to shared bookmarking sites such as Delicious or StumbleUpon.

Most Share widgets allow you to select the options you want to offer; sometimes, you can include e-mail, print, or bookmark opportunities. In most cases, limit users to half a dozen visible choices to avoid overwhelming them; they can always click the button to view more.

New Mexico Creates invites visitors to share each of its web pages with an expandable Share button.
Credit: Courtesy of www.newmexicocreates.org
New Mexico Creates invites visitors to share each of its web pages with an expandable Share button.

Many web hosting and site template companies, as well as third-party providers and individual social networking sites, offer free Social Sharing buttons. Select your Share button from a provider that offers analytics.

Adding share functionality on almost every website is appropriate as a method of driving additional traffic with a recommendation from an extremely well-targeted audience of similar viewers. Share functionality is the simplest online equivalent of word-of-mouth.

To improve the number of referrals, consider adding a minor incentive or a chance to win a drawing for every friend someone notifies. To do this, the script must include a thank-you or confirmation message following its use so that you can track the action.

If you want something more elaborate, consider the Social Notes widget from Strongmail.com, which facilitates the sharing of product referrals with a message, directly from your e-commerce site.

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