How to Apply Traditional Word-of-Mouth Marketing To The Internet

How do you use the Social Media Sites to apply traditional (offline) word-of-mouth marketing to the Internet?

That’s a question that arose a couple of days ago.  Here’s the gist of my response:

Social Media Marketing is about applying ‘traditional’ word-of-mouth Marketing to the Internet.

Social Media Marketing online needs to be combined with the development of an authority site.

An authority site is not set up to sell, but rather to provide up-to-date, valuable and useful information on its topic.

Once an authority site has a critical mass of visitors it can then be used to channel visitors on to sales pages for relevant products or services.

A successful authority site has lots of regular readers and acts as a community of like-minded people discussing the site’s topic.

In a vibrant and active blog-based authority site there will be ‘discussions’ on each article that’s posted.

The dream of bloggers like this is to publish content that goes viral.  But content will only do this if it’s good enough to make enough visitors pass the link on to friends, who then pass it on again.

While it is possible for a good article on a new site to go viral, a site generally needs a critical mass of regular readers to give it the best chance of launching a viral post.

The higher the number of returning/regular visitors a site has the more likely it is that people will pass on the URL, either friend to friend or through the social networking sites.

And once a site has a high proportion of returning visitors it can begin to act as a funnel to sales pages for relevant products or services.

So how do you make a site into an authority site?

You need to demonstrate expertise, produce high quality content and keep you site clean and up to date.

Google calls it E.A.T. – Expertise, Authority and Trust.

It takes time to build your site into an authority site, with a high level of E.A.T., but once you have you will begin to attract new visitors from two primary sources:

  • Search Engines
  • Social media sites (provided you’ve joined social media sites and done the work there to build your presence)

It will also have a high proportion of regular readers.

Of these sources of visitors, the search engines generally provide the most valuable visitors.

Why is that?

Because people who find you through the search engines are more targetted. They’re generally searching for what you’re providing, they’re probably in ‘buying mode’ and, if your site is monetised, they’re therefore more likely to buy from you.

So how will your site be found by the search engines?

It needs to have E.A.T.: high quality content, be well-optimised and well-structured (with properly set up meta data) and have lots of inbound links.

This means that getting an authority site off the ground takes time and work and perseverance.

You need to find communities online that are interested in your topic and become involved with them. Join relevant forums, join social media sites and set up relevant groups. Leave as big a footprint on line as you can.

In your forums and social media groups you need to take the same care to become accepted and respected as you would in real-world forums and groups.

Politeness, providing valuable information and generally contributing to the community should be your priorities.

Direct promotion of your site, opportunity or product is definitely out!

The end game is to gain enough respect and curiosity from the people around you that people start clicking the link on your signature line or your profile and visit your blog.

Once they get there they should be blown away by the quality of information that’s waiting for them. When they are, they’ll bookmark you, return and pass your link to others – and you need as many of them to do this as possible.

As your readership builds so will the number of links into your site.  This, combined with your well-optimised site and high quality content, will make the search engines notice you.  And when they do your traffic will really begin to climb.

At first, the visitors you get from the social sites will be ‘bounce’ visitors.  People who visit your site because of a specific article, read through the article and click away again.

But over time the proportion of bounce visitors will decline and the proportion of regular readers will grow.

And that’s when you can get your authority site to start channelling traffic to sales pages for relevant products or services.

So basically the model for the online version of word-of-mouth marketing is:

  1. Create an authority site – good, up to date, valuable information, regularly updated. This is where you should focus most of your attention.
  2. Build a regular readership (by creating a presence and providing valuable information through the social media sites, forums and other sources)
  3. Attract as much traffic as you can from the search engines
  4. Let the authority site act as a funnel to sites selling products that are relevant to its topic.


Martin Malden

Martin Malden
Owner – WealthyDragon

Website owner: Martin has been working online since 2006 and focuses on two areas: 1) affiliate marketing and 2) designing and building websites based on WordPress. He has his own WordPress agency, and serves clients in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.