Why Influencers Are Essential for Scaling Your Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Efforts

GRIN also recommends this free guide:

Influencer Marketing Best Practices

Download Guide

When it comes to social commerce, word-of-mouth marketing is king. Don’t believe us? Then check this out: More than 60% of consumers always check reviews before making an online purchase. 

Bar graph of "When you shop online, how often do you read reviews prior to purchasing"

More than 60% of consumers always check reviews before making an online purchase.

When you shop online, how often do you read reviews prior to purchasing?

Every time: 60.44%

Sometimes: 27.37%

Hardly ever: 47.4%

Never: 45%

Hearing about a product’s pros and cons is essential for the typical shopper. Beyond that, people will scroll through social media to see what creators have to say about an item before making a purchase, and the average consumer is more likely to trust and purchase from a brand if it repurposes user-generated content (UGC). 

But if you’re a relatively new brand, gaining that social proof can be difficult. The good news: Creators can help. 

What is word-of-mouth marketing? 

Word-of-mouth marketing consists of various techniques, like sharing customer testimonials or partnering with creators, that rely on the age-old tradition of social proof. People are more likely to trust the opinions of a person just like them rather than the claims a company makes about its own products. 

In fact, about 80% of consumers say they’re more comfortable making an impulse purchase if an influencer or friend recommends the product.

Partnering with creators for honest, authentic reviews and endorsements is a strategic move to boost your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. However, there are some elements that can impact how effective these recommendations are, including: 

  • How much the recipient of the info trusts the person offering the information 
  • How relevant the recommendation is to the person receiving it 

Word-of-mouth marketing examples throughout history 

Word-of-mouth marketing is an age-old tradition that’s taken on new forms over time. Let’s dive into some famous examples of this technique. 

Restaurant reviews 

While the norm today is a quick Google or Yelp search to see what people are saying about the latest restaurant (or any other business, for that matter), food critics have been sharing their opinions with their communities and influencing dining decisions for centuries. 

In fact, the first food critic was Alexandre Balthazar Laurente Grimod de La Reyniere, who wrote the Gourmand’s Almanac on a yearly basis and shared it with his fellow Frenchmen in the early 1800s

This began a tradition of newspapers, publications, and even brands like Michelin (yes, the tire company) sharing restaurant reviews, as well as reports on various other businesses and products. 

Multi-level marketing companies 

Brands like Mary Kay, Tupperware, and Avon are all examples of multi-level marketing companies (or MLMs). While these types of businesses have come under fire lately, with consumers calling them out for allegedly being pyramid schemes, the general premise of these brands relies on word-of-mouth marketing. 

Long before the internet existed, MLMs were hiring people to join their teams and sell their products. These salespeople typically ordered a bit of each type of product and would host parties in their homes, to which they’d invite friends and family. During these events, they’d demo the products, share their experiences, and try to convince their loved ones to fill out order forms. 

Referral programs 

When most people hear “referral programs,” they typically think of earning a discount or reward for encouraging a friend to sign up for a service or buy a product. However, the first one began in 55 BC when Julius Caesar launched an employee referral program. He offered his soldiers a sizable amount of money if they could recruit another person into the Roman army. 

Word-of-mouth marketing example of a man holding up a piece of technology in a review

Common word-of-mouth marketing examples 

Review campaigns 

Reviews are excellent sources of social proof, especially for ecommerce sites where potential shoppers can’t actually try or experience the product in real life before purchasing. But getting customers to share their thoughts can be a bit difficult. That’s where creators can help you out. 

You can send your products to creators and ask them to leave honest reviews. When deciding which creators to include, consider that most macro and mega influencers will require payment, while nano and micro influencers may be willing to accept free products in exchange for the review.

You can also partner with your customers to earn reviews. Send them some products they haven’t tried, and ask them to share their honest thoughts on your site. This is easy to do at scale, since most brand fans will do this without requiring additional payment. 

Referral programs 

If you’ve ever bought a product and then received an email promising discounts or special perks if you convince friends to make a purchase, you’ve been asked to join a referral program. Common proposals include: 

  • A coupon for you and your friends, whether it’s a specific dollar amount or percentage off an order
  • A free month (if it’s a subscription-based company) 
  • Points in a loyalty program
  • And more 

These programs really motivate customers to advocate for your brand and introduce it to their friends and families. After all, who doesn’t love free stuff? 

In one real-life example, Tonal introduced a “Refer a Friend” program in which brand fans could share a $100 coupon with their friends and family, and if someone made a purchase, the referrer would earn a $50 discount code for the Tonal Gear Shop. 

UGC competitions 

UGC is a valuable resource for marketers across every vertical. After all, a person posting about why they love a product is much more trustworthy than a brand telling you why you should purchase from them.  

Many brands wait for the right piece of UGC to come along, and some even recruit creators to generate content, but other brands will leverage the excitement of a competition to get their fans to showcase their products. These contests typically ask people to post on social media, tag the brand, and use a specific hashtag. Then, the brand will select winners and offer a prize, whether it’s free products or a special experience

For example, IPSY ran a UGC competition called “The Next 10” to find 10 creators looking to earn an exclusive creator contract with the brand for 2022. To enter, participants needed to post a video on Instagram sharing their best beauty hack with the hashtag #IPSYTheNext10. Through this program, they earned over 580 pieces of creator content!  

Influencer partnerships 

Partnering with creators is one surefire way to boost your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. In fact, when you work with creators to develop authentic and honest content, you are leveraging the high level of trust they have spent a significant amount of time cultivating with their fan base. 

Word-of-mouth tactics can fit anywhere within the marketing funnel, whether a creator is giving a high-level view of a product to build brand awareness or sharing tutorials and answering FAQs to encourage purchases. 

How to increase word-of-mouth marketing efforts with the help of influencers 

1. Analyze your audience. 

The first step in any marketing strategy is understanding your ideal audience. Here are some common questions to ask yourself: 

  • Who is purchasing my products?
  • Who did I create your products for? 
  • What are the demographics (gender, age, location, income, education level, etc.) for my ideal buyer? 
  • Where does my audience spend their time (reading blogs, watching TikToks, looking at Facebook, etc.)? 

Once you find all this information, you can start developing a truly phenomenal influencer marketing program. 

2. Determine which type of content would work best. 

Now that you know who your audience is and where they like to consume content, you can dive a bit deeper and see what kind of posts resonate with them. There are a few ways to do this: 

  • Check out your competitors. If competing brands are on your desired social platform, check out their content and see what performs well. Then look to see if they’re partnering with influencers and analyze which types of creator content perform well.
  • Use some tools. SparkToro is an audience research tool offering robust insights, and you can try it out for free. Just type your site’s URL into SparkToro’s search bar, and you’ll gain access to information about the people who visit your site, like their top hashtags, phrases they frequently use, the top social accounts they follow, and more. You can then plug this info back into social media to see what kind of content is on these accounts and hashtags. 

3. Find the right content creators. 

Ready to put all of that research to use? You now know who your audience is, where they spend their time, and what they like to see, so you can start finding creators who match these criteria. 

You can search for creators in a variety of ways:

  • With hashtags – Use some hashtags you found in your previous research and look for creators with a lot of authentic engagement. If you get stuck, most social media platforms have autofill set up for their search features, so you can type in the beginning of a hashtag and see what they recommend. 
  • With location tags – If your audience is located in a specific geographic location, check out location tags to find creators who frequently post from the area. When searching locations, skip the tourist spots and instead look at local restaurants and cafes to find people who actually live there. 
  • With branded searches – You may have a bunch of influential fans posting about you, and you don’t even know it! Search for #YourBrandName or #YourProductName to see if there’s already UGC on your desired platform. You can even offer to send these creators free products in exchange for additional content. 

4. Send word-of-mouth marketing campaign briefs. 

Once you gather a group of interested creators, it’s time to send them a campaign brief. Essentially, this is a guide to deliverables, compensation methods, brand guidelines, etc., that will help the creator deliver content that meets your brand’s needs. However, if you make the brief too long, creators may feel stifled. You want to find the sweet spot of just enough information to guide their content but not so many guidelines that they can’t be creative. 

5. Review the data and optimize. 

After your creators have posted about your brand and products, it’s time to see how their content is performing. If you give them a Discount Code or Affiliate Link, you can measure how many conversions they’re helping you earn. If not, you can check the engagement rate on their branded posts, as well as reach, impressions, and general sentiment in the comments, to gauge how effective their content is. 

Remember, data is only effective if you put it into action. Take the time to analyze what you’ve learned and optimize your program along the way to guarantee you’re getting the most value out of your creator partnerships. 

Is your attribution strategy leaving out word-of-mouth marketing efforts? 

If you’ve been in digital marketing for a while, you know earning a sale is never a one-touchpoint process. In fact, any marketing class will teach you about the purchase funnel, which starts with brand awareness at the top and ends with conversions (or even brand advocacy) at the bottom. 

Now, when it comes to collecting data on the sources of purchases, there are two main sources of attribution data: 

  • Attribution software (automated data) 
  • Post-purchase surveys (self-reported data) 

Attribution software captures the action that occurred right before the purchase, like clicking on an ad or searching on Google, while post-purchase surveys rely on consumers to self-report on their first point of contact with the brand, whether that’s hearing about it from a friend or creator or seeing an ad that piqued their interest.

When reviewing data from an attribution software, many marketers will see clear winners in ads and organic search. And while some consumers definitely can make an impulse purchase after seeing one ad or may find the exact solution they were searching Google for and immediately make a purchase, this is far from the standard. 

Many people first discover your brand in other ways, whether hearing about it from someone they know or seeing a creator talk about it on social media. They then consider your brand and file it away for later. Once they feel ready to make the purchase, they’ll Google your brand, or they may be swayed after seeing a retargeting ad.

The software will attribute these sales to ads or organic search, which can skew a marketer’s perception of the value of word-of-mouth marketing efforts. 

This is where post-purchase surveys come into play. When you ask shoppers where they first heard about your brand, they can provide more accurate info. 

When people rely solely on attribution software, they start to believe the main drivers are the bottom-of-the-funnel sources and divert money away from top-of-funnel sources, leading to lower sales overall. 

Are you seeing the full picture when it comes to sales attribution? 

What is sales attribution? 

Attribution is the practice of identifying the exact touchpoints that lead a consumer to make a purchase. 

A marketer’s favorite channel is very different from a consumer’s.* 

Digital Ad

  • Consumers: 36%
  • Marketers: 11%

Social Media

  • Consumers: 32%
  • Marketers: 23%

Streaming Service

  • Consumers: 18%
  • Marketers: 5%

Word-of-mouth

  • Consumers: 4%
  • Marketers: 28%

Cable TV

  • Consumers: 4%
  • Marketers: 12%

Podcast

  • Consumers: 2%
  • Marketers: 3%

Preferred Method for Learning About a New Brand, Product, or Service According to US Consumers vs. Marketers, by Marketing Channel, July 2021

*Source: eMarketer, Preferred Method for Learning About a New Brand, Product, or Service According to US Consumers vs. Marketers, by Marketing Channel, July 2021

It’s because attribution software can easily track sales driven by clicks but can’t really track the effectiveness of upper-funnel marketing techniques, like word of mouth.

Attribution software only gives you half the picture. 

If marketers just look at the results from attribution software, they may mistakenly believe the lower-funnel techniques are the primary sales-drivers and allocate more budget to them, neglecting the upper-funnel techniques that lead consumers to enter the funnel and develop brand affinity in the first place.

Marketing funnel: awareness to consideration, to conversion

So how can you paint a more complete picture?

Marketers can add post-purchase surveys to gauge the effectiveness of all their channels and get self-reported data on what actually drove each sale.  

Partnering with affiliates is another way to gather data about how much value creators generate for your program. 

Key takeaway: Influencers are one of the most efficient ways to scale your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. 

Ready to build some major trust with potential customers? Then it’s time to leverage the authentic connection creators have cultivated with their fan bases. Do your research, find influencers who are speaking to your target audience, and work together to develop content for the entire sales funnel. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Word-of-mouth marketing consists of various techniques that rely on the age-old tradition of social proof, like sharing customer testimonials or partnering with creators. People are more likely to trust the opinions of a person just like them rather than the claims a company makes about its own products. 

Some common strategies include partnering with creators, running a referral program, and hosting UGC-generating contests.

Word-of-mouth techniques are essential in marketing because people are more likely to trust the recommendations of someone just like them rather than a biased brand making claims about their products. 
In fact, about 80% of consumers say they’re more comfortable making an impulse purchase if an influencer or friend recommends the product, and more than 60% always check reviews before making an online purchase.

Word-of-mouth influencer marketing is a technique in which you work with creators to develop authentic and honest content promoting your brand, services, or products. This allows you to leverage the high level of trust they have cultivated with their fan base. 

Was this article helpful? Give it a share!

Want to be the first to know what’s new in the creator economy?

Our team keeps a finger on the pulse, so you’re always working with the latest information.

Get the GRIN newsletter for all the trends and insights you need to grow your business.

All-in-one creator management platform helping ecommerce companies build more valuable brands through the power of creator partnerships.

© Grin Technologies Inc. 2022. All rights reserved.

Written by Sarah Conrad

Originally from San Antonio, Sarah studied advertising at the University of Houston and decided to stay in the city upon graduation. She is particularly interested in SEO for social media platforms and tracking the latest influencer content trends. When she's not putting pen to paper, she's baking, painting, or hanging out with her dog.