attended the seminar “Word of Mouth Marketing for Chains and Multi-Concept Operators.”  The seminar discussed how some chains are increasing revenue and building customer loyalty through blogs, viral marketing, and all the social networking tools that internet users have come to know and love.

The premise of word-of-mouth marketing is simple: happy customers are your best ad. This free army of marketers breaks the relationship between money and marketing, and gets the word out about your products much more effectively than traditional advertising ever could. Besides, the new reality is that your brand is what Google and Yelp say it is. But how do you motivate people, particularly happy, complacent people, to talk about you in a way that is authentic? A panel of industry executives presented their past forays into social media marketing and offered advice on the best uses of these tools.

Margie Myers spoke about Dunkin’ Donuts and the company’s use of Twitter. When the company first began using Twitter in May of 2008, they searched carefully for someone who understood the Dunkin’ Donuts brand, and who could be original, engaging and funny in less than 140 characters. The key, Myers said, is to select your Twitterer with care, then get out of the way. Above all, be comfortable with uncertainty. In many ways, social media is antithetical to corporate principles, which tout polishing every word and waiting for authorization from higher-ups. However, the upside to social media is tremendous: a direct, unfiltered connection with customers.

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