buzz marketing

Contributor(s): Tim Ehrens

Buzz marketing is a viral marketing technique that is focused on maximizing the word-of-mouth potential of a particular campaign or product, whether that is through conversations among consumers' family and friends or larger scale discussions on social media platforms. By getting consumers talking about their products and services, companies that employ buzz marketing hope to grow their awareness through the growth of online traffic and increase sales and profits. A buzz marketing example would be if a company decides to promote a product through some type of event centered around a show or stunt of some kind where consumers can try the product and are encouraged to share their experiences through everyday conversation or online. Another term for buzz marketing is astroturfing.

Online buzz marketing is typically driven by "influencers," or early adopters of a product, that are eager to share their thoughts on the product and proactively start conversations about it. These people typically have established online presences and large followings on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and possess power and influence over their follower base. Influencers' opinions get noticed more readily and can have a positive effect on the sales and awareness of the product. Marketers aim to rally these influencers to build buzz for their products. Some marketers target people known as "connectors," or big-name personalities and celebrities who can lend instant credibility and exposure to a product. Marketers looking for a large jump in awareness for a product will seek out connectors, aiming for an instant jolt of societal relevance.

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Social media marketing is a main component of buzz marketing. Facebook and Twitter are two of the main social media platforms that companies try to maintain a presence on. Using these and other, smaller social media sites, companies can interact with customers, receive feedback, address issues or concerns and promote their products and services. Cultivating a rich set of shareable content and amassing a strong following on these sites enable consumers to obtain needed materials straight from the company and also, more importantly, allows the company to have a real-time dialogue with their constituents to foster an atmosphere where customers feel valued and informed.

Other online buzz marketing strategies include enlisting the help of influential bloggers to create a stir. Companies oftentimes let bloggers or media outlets try a product in advance of its release in exchange for a published mention of the product. Using website forums to drum up buzz and creating customer communities that connect fan clubs, message boards and other groups are also examples of how companies create online buzz marketing.

Buzz marketing is a different approach to marketing than the traditional outbound marketing techniques or "mass marketing" tactics of TV, radio and print advertising. In outbound marketing, companies aim to proliferate their messages to as many people as possible with the hope that a few will become interested. Buzz marketing depends on the power of one-on-one personal messages more than broadcast messaging and assumes that word-of-mouth holds more weight with consumers since it is perceived as unbiased, coming from people they trust and not simply directly from the company.

As consumers get better at identifying buzz marketing when it is taking place, marketers have to use these tactics wisely and sparingly to be effective. Early incarnations of online buzz marketing, such as pop-up ads, banner ads and email marketing, were new at the time but consumers have since treated these techniques as annoyances and the marketers' message goes unnoticed. Companies also run the risk of not being able to connect their campaigns with the brand or product itself; merely creating a piece of content that gets people talking means nothing if people can't identify it with the company that created it.

Buzz marketing examples include companies creating online videos, usually centered around something humorous, controversial, unusual or outrageous, that hope to cause a sensation and get people talking about it, sharing it via social media and driving up views on websites such as YouTube. Companies will then try to capitalize on the content's popularity by promoting the product on social media, either by creating a hashtag in the hopes of becoming a "trending topic," or encouraging consumers to download other pieces of content to further foster customer engagement.

This was last updated in May 2015

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How does your company approach buzz marketing?
Enthusiastically. And cautiously. Good chatter on the one hand. A raging buzz saw on the other.... Like any fast moving marketing effort, buzz can't to be approached haphazardly.

We try to both follow it (when it's already underway) and generate it (before it's taken hold). Both take some knowhow and quite a bit of caution. Being too obvious or seeding the conversation too aggressively can backfire with disastrous results.

Not every attempt to generate (or tamp down) buzz will be effective so it's vital to pick up skills as you move ahead.
If there's one thing people should learn is that you can't harness hornets. And that is what I equate buzz marketing with. While it can be powerful and awe-inspiring, it can also chase you into a lake. Don't try to create buzz for the sake of buzz and you'll be safe. And have a plan in place for when your buzz becomes a roar - either good or bad. That is the best way you can come out of a viral content explosion unscathed and actually on the winning side.

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