This series of blogs summarizes key takeaways from some of the presentations and panel discussions offered at the jeffreygraham2009 Social Commerce Summit.

“How the New York Times is using WOM to drive ROI” was the keynote given by Jeffrey Graham, Executive Director of Customer Insight for the New York Times, on April  29, 2009.

Readers tell the New York Times that they buy the paper or visit because the content fuels their conversations. They like to be “in the know.” They want to be where the dialogue begins.

All media is social media – including newspapers, which are a forum for communicating issues of interest to the public. But the scope of media presentation has changed drastically within the past decade. The New York Times has pursued different ways to bring its content to a global audience.

Women Multipliers
Marketers have come to realize that women play a large role in decision-making, especially in non-traditionally female-targeted categories such as technology and automobiles. Further, there is a set of “multipliers” who spur and rely on word of mouth to extend trends.

In 2008, the Times conducted an online study of more than 3,000 affluent women with in-depth interviews in NYC and LA. The survey covered investments, fashion, travel, consumer electronics and automobiles and filtered for word of mouth factors:

  • Means of influence – personal communication with at least five people per day
  • Past recommendation behavior – looking for a history of word of mouth influence
  • Personality traits – a love for learning new things, sharing ideas, and offering advice

The results revealed that 92 percent of women multipliers mentioned preferred products or services in conversations, in contrast to 79 percent of average affluent women.

Multiplier word of mouth is more valuable because the multipliers consume in greater quantities, and speak up more often. Auto non-multipliers speak to two people, for instance; multipliers speak to 14 ppl. If you reach 40 percent of the multipliers within your media plan, you double the number of recommendations made. Media planners don’t analyze multiplier data yet, but they will.

Global Multipliers
Does this trend exist only in the US and Europe? Or is it a global phenomenon?

A 2008 Reuters study analyzed similar trends amongst 4300 affluent consumers from major global nations. Multipliers were recognized based on product engagement, purchasing power, and social influence in the areas of advocacy, finance, luxury, technology, and travel.

While affluent multipliers constitute only one percent of the population, they influence 20 percent of all travel expenditure – 241 million flights – as well as 26 percent of global technology and 18 percent of global luxury purchases.

The study found a shared group of traits that is consistent around the world. Seventy-two percent of multipliers stressed the importance of being the first to try something new. Early adopters drive profitability because they rapidly adopt new products and spread the word about them. Eighty-nine percent of multipliers feel a responsibility to share their experience, offering 2.5 times the number of average consumer recommendations. Technology multipliers are asked for product recommendations a whopping average of 8 times per week.

Hidden Business Decision Influencers (B2B)
In 2008, the Times spoke with several dozen B2B individuals from various fields about the people they influence, and the ones who influence them. An average of five other voices influence business decisions, with influence overlapping industries. Businesses are influenced by a wide network of people, with many chief decision makers heavily dependent upon multiple sources of information and early adaptation of new technology. Alumni networks are among the top second-degree influencers.

What Multipliers Represent
The return on investing in multipliers was Bazaarvoice clients’ success. The Times’s metrics showed that word of mouth is the new measure of effective advertising. The has seen the following results:

  • #1 newspaper site on the Web
  • 20 million monthly unique users
  • Most blogged site on the internet – extends the NYT’s mission to inform people across the world
  • Numerous industry awards

How to Utilize the Multiplier Effect

  1. Multipliers like to spread the word – enable them to spread YOUR message
  2. Multipliers are info mavens – be their source for news and trends
  3. Multipliers like to be experts – target your media to bring them YOUR news
  4. Multipliers want to talk back – use online media to cultivate a dialogue
  5. Multipliers are very environmentally conscious – increasing sustainability is key
  6. Multipliers tend to be trendsetters for things to come

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