In the past decade, the rise of online communities, forums and social networks has fundamentally changed our travel habits. A decade ago, a lot of my trips started with a visit to the AAA office and the library to collect AAA Trip Tiks, guidebooks, maps and other destination information. Fast forward to today, and our travel plans usually start with an Internet search.

In December, as my family discussed destinations that involved a beach or an amusement park, my first-grader quipped that he wanted to go to see Santa Elena Canyon. There was a moment of silence as the rest of the family looked blankly at each other, wondering where this place was. A Google search returned the result that Santa Elena Canyon was in Big Bend National Park in Texas. A tweet to my followers connected me with Beth Nobles, executive director at Texas Mountain Trail, a nonprofit organization that promotes visitors to the six westernmost counties of Texas — an area as big as West Virginia. (read more…)

Why do Lady Gaga fans sleep on the streets of New York in glittery underwear just to score tickets to her shows? Why do sports enthusiasts wear hats made out of cheese in support of their favorite team? What motivates political activists to knock on doors during election season, and how did Oreo come to dominate America’s cookie market with more than 33 million Facebook fans?

There’s a commonality here. The brains behind these branding efforts were able to mobilize fans with emotion and inspire them to become full-blown advocates.

But what about the toilet paper, tampon, and household supply brands of the world — brands that undoubtedly face greater advocacy battles than markets like entertainment or dessert? While social media has helped glamorous industries accelerate word-of-mouth, others struggle to reach consumers who now opt-in to much marketing. How do you drive advocacy for brands that aren’t as innately moving — brands that many use and love, but just don’t think to engage with or advocate for as often? (read more…)

Bracken-FergusonKendraKendra Bracken-Ferguson is DBA’s chief operating officer. Her background includes online interactive and integrated marketing, with specialties in mobile marketing, influencer relations, digital communications, viral/word-of-mouth marketing, event management and youth marketing. Bracken-Ferguson was named Mobile Marketer’s “Mobile Women to Watch in 2010” and was featured as one of the 28 most influential African-American women in Essence magazine in October 2011.

The following is an e-mail interview with Bracken-Ferguson about the state of influencer marketing and blogger outreach in 2013.

What characteristics define a digital influencer in 2013?

Digital influencers are those who have a unique perspective and distinct presence in the digital landscape. They offer a take on a topic that is obviously very inventive (otherwise they wouldn’t be an influencer OR popular), it’s consistent with their vision, and it feeds across every aspect of their digital property. They have the ability to create and distribute relevant content, moving their audience to action. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: Which is more challenging?

  • Getting happy fans to tell others about you: 65.79%
  • Appeasing angry fans: 34.21%

Almost two-thirds of SmartBrief on Social Media readers say it’s more difficult to spur positive word-of-mouth than quiet irate customers. It’s not hard to see the reason. While it’s important to deal with negative reviews and comments in a timely fashion, the process of customer appeasement is much better understood than the process of encouraging positive word-of-mouth. Your critics will come out and tell you what they want from you, but your happy fans offer no such clues.

This means the burden is on you, the marketer, to discover what your fans love about you and find ways to spur them to share that opinion with others. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: Do you discuss products or brands you enjoy on your social media accounts?

  • No — 55.91%
  • Yes — 44.09%

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful tools any business has at its disposal — but taking full advantage of it can be easier said than done. Some people are naturally inclined to share products and services they’ve enjoyed in the past, but those people are decidedly in the minority. Even among SmartBrief on Social Media readers, less than half say they talk about brands or products via social accounts. If you want your business to take full advantage of the power of word-of-mouth marketing, you need to do more than just hope people will talk about you.

How can you avoid leaving word-of-mouth to chance? (read more…)