Corporate Eye

Measuring Word-of-Mouth Marketing

There is an online debate in the marketing world related to measuring word-of-mouth marketing.  The online and offline buzz surrounding a brand or product has been nearly impossible to measure accurately, but the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is trying to do just that by developing a standard metric system to accurately measure the success of all word-of-mouth initiatives.

Some marketers and brand managers argue against creating this type of metric saying that true word-of-mouth is earned by spending time, money and effort in building a relationship with customers.  I have to concur with that theory, but at the same time, with the explosion of viral marketing and social media marketing, both of which lend themselves perfectly to word-of-mouth marketing and generating an online buzz, there certainly is an abundance of new opportunities to connect with people through the social web.

However, this begs the question – should manufactured word-of-mouth marketing be measured the same way as organic word-of-mouth marketing (i.e., the kind that comes from your most loyal customers after they’ve worked through the 7 Steps of Advertising Success and become your best brand advocates)?  My response to this question is – absolutely not. 

While a natural part of marketing and branding is understanding what efforts are working and which initiatives generate the best ROI, it’s equally important to understand that part of marketing and branding is subjective.  Metrics need to take into account who is doing the talking in word-of-mouth marketing and who those people are talking to.  Furthermore, metrics need to take into account who is actually listening and influenced by word-of-mouth marketing and who are the true influencers.  By identifying these success factors, true ROI will be realized.

What do you think of WOMMA’s attempts at defining metrics for measuring word-of-mouth marketing?


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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.