Link Building via Word-of-Mouth

Is your company taking advantage of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM)? The links will follow once enough people talk positively about your company. People link to familiar names and brands. That's one reason major brands and corporations have acquired so many links over the past decade.

For example, let's say you manage a Web site about parenting. In one month, 10 different people tell you about a new helpful site that offers an interactive tool to help parents screen babysitters. It could be as simple as a tool to build a custom questionnaire for babysitter applicants. After all, parents have different needs and expectation. As the manager of a parenting site, I bet you'd visit the site. Perhaps even link to it. Maybe even feature it in a story.

That's the power of WOMM. More than three-quarters of people trusted consumer recommendations, according to a 2007 study. Compare that to only 34 percent trusting PPC ads.

WOMM can be created in several ways. It could be as simple as offering remarkable customer service, an incentive, a tool, or even a funny animation. It's really only limited by creativity.

The key is to focus on something that will get people talking positively about your company or product. The conversation could take place at a variety of venues: from dinner parties and grocery stores, to e-mail, social media sites, discussion boards, or IM. The location or method will really depend on your targeted audience. Targeting kids? It might be on the playground. Targeting gamers? It could be on social sites.

Let's look at one way to ignite a WOMM campaign.

People of Influence

Whether you're targeting an e-mail discussion list, forums, blogs, social media sites, or real world situations the key is to find the people of influence. Those are the people others listen to, and -- most importantly -- have influence over. We're a herding society, and people naturally follow the leader.

With that in mind, locate the leaders in each community you plan to target. Take the example of discussion boards (a.k.a. forums) for your industry. Look at which users have the most postings, and best reputation rating. Who tends to start popular threads? Explore the forum to find the leaders that others pay attention to. These are the people to target to jump-start you campaign.

The same basic approach holds true no matter what the target. Find the people who have the greatest influence. Think of it as a political election. Go after other leaders who can bring in the votes.

Now comes the hard part. How are you going to influence them to promote your brand or company? It'll be easier if what you're promoting is truly "remarkable," especially if you're targeting a specific group of people, such as a parenting Web site. Otherwise, there's the time-tested method of offering free products, discounts, or financial contributions. Get some paid endorsements from key people.

OK, some of you may be thinking this is buying links. But think about how politics works. Politicians make contributions, promise favors, jobs, and support of projects. Would Google consider that "selling votes?" If so, that's a felony. Just ask the college kid who tried to sell his vote on eBay.

Now the challenge is how your company can create a successful WOMM campaign to increase exposure, branding, and build links all at the same time. Remember: good link building is just good marketing.