Word of Mouth at its heart was literally one person passing on comments or recommendations to another. (For great read on WOM fundamentals, check out this book by Andy Sernovitz).  This required the physical sharing of a common locality to experience this Word of Mouth phenomenon.

As communications technology advanced, this spatial requirement for Word of Mouth diminished.  Enter the Internet age – where we have people from one part of the world influencing others on the other side of the globe.

The rise of the digital social networks has forever changed the dynamics of Word of Mouth.  But only for a moment.  As smartphones have increasingly shifted our Internet interactions into our mobile lives, WOM – specifically digital WOM – has returned some relevance back into what it means to be local. (Even people within the same locality interact and communicate with each other via smartphone apps.)

Early apps like Foursquare focused purely on geographical presence are transitioning into services that use this data to provide conversations and recommendations between end users.  And it is these types of local social signals that are going to influence your marketing success in the future.

It’s been said before and I’ll say it again:  Social media and search go hand in hand.  By now it should be no surprise that social signals (user generated content and sharing intents from social networks and beyond) factor into SEO (search engine optimization) results.

With last year’s Hummingbird announcement, many industry analysts and experts took careful note that Google was poised to more actively take social signals (hello, Google+) into account in search engine results and rankings.  And this is not just happening in the U.S. market.  Even China’s Google equivalent, Baidu, has gotten the message that WOM is an important factor in defining search and content relevance, facilitating its own social sharing tool.

So what does this mean for local WOM?  Social WOM big data, coupled with geospatial big data, is pushing us towards an increasingly greater focus on local search and the need to factor in local SEO for marketing success.  It means that you need to consider the impact of localized content and engagement in your marketing efforts.  It means you need to have the right foundations in place to support local SEO efforts (like listings management if you have multiple geographic locations).

Image credit: http://moz.com/learn/local/prioritizing-local-marketing

Referencing the above graphic, social media (today’s equivalent to WOM) is still a key factor to search and gives rise to the targeted intersection of local search.
Need further convincing?  Check out Google’s recent efforts to bring you a hyperlocal in-store experience with Google Maps Business View.  It will only be a matter of time before marketing companies begin to incorporate this level of locality into their local SEO offerings.


Thomas Kim
Product Manager, Social Technologies

Originally posted at WOMMA.org