Word of Mouth (aka viral) Marketing Has Huge Potential for Nonprofits

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) closed out its Basic Training conference with a bang,  and was widely reported on in venues as diverse as the New York Times, Advertising Age and blogs including that from the journalist-focused Poynter Institute to heavyweight PR firm Burson-Marsteller’s e-fluentials.

What this says to me is that word of mouth (WOM) marketing (aka viral marketing, although that term is frequently restricted to info shared through online communication media only ) is becoming a firmly established strategy in the marketing portfolio. Most importantly for you, it’s one that you should put to use immediately for your nonprofit or foundation.

I’m going to blog frequently about WOM but want to start today with some very useful definitions I pulled from conference coverage:

    • What is Word of Mouth Marketing?
      • The act of a member of your audiences creating or distributing information to other audience members.
      • An outcome (of individuals spreading information to one another), not a set of tactics you implement.
      • Organic – just sort of happens, but you have to launch it
      • Amplified – results from activity by marketers.

What dismays me is that in reviewing the conference attendee list, I see only a few nonprofits and no foundations. Kudos to Northeastern University, NPR, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Texas Tech Unniversity.

You can consider word of mouth marketing the oldest marketing channel. What’s older than gossip and whisper down the lane? And it’s even bigger now that we’re in a consumer-controlled world. You can’t ignore the power of your nonprofit audiences, so why not work with it?  Otherwise, your organization will miss out on a vital, vibrant communications opportunity. Don’t be last to the party. Just jump in.

Learn how in my series of forthcoming posts on setting WOM in motion for your organization.

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Nancy Schwartz on February 16, 2006 in Nonprofit Communications, Viral Marketing | 3 comments

  • Todd,
    I’d love to hear more about what you heard from ASAE, and in the nonprofit panel session. Could you share that here?

  • Todd Tweedy

    You missed ASAE. In fact, having THE advocate for the non-profit arena attending the event is likely to bring in many more groups to future conferences. Additionally, WOMMA’s first conference in Chicago had a panel that was dedicated to non-profits and associations that I moderated. The room was PACKED. I believe you’re likely to see more niche or targeted one-day events for the non-profit arena that will be tailored to Directors of membership and other association leaders.
    Todd Tweedy

  • Chris

    Nancy, you’ve got a terrific site. Another way non-profits can build viral support (and membership) and effect change is through petitions and email advocacy campaigns to Congress. There are several tools: Capwiz.com and RallyCongress.com are worth checking out.

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