Not only are the marketers taking notice but other potentates are rallying around the peer-to-peer grapevines. Investors are lining up, old school media are keenly observing the shift and government is becoming curiously interested in their stake in the game.
With no further fanfare then, here are my picks for the top 11 word of mouth headlines and stories of 2006.
#1 - Google gobbles up YouTube - for $1.65 billion, YouTube graduates to the big leagues and the lense of future media, overnight making YouTube a household name to the masses and by itself, catapulting video-sharing to the heart of future social networking
#2 - Liar, Liars, Blogs on Fire - I hate to bring this up again, as Edelman has likely experienced enough pain on this, but if marketers and communications believe lying is fair game in today's marketplace, this mushroom cloud involving Edelman and Walmart paying columnists to act as bloggers is fair warning. When you have your next internal team meeting, and somebody offers the idea of not disclosing honestly - run for the hills. Same message goes out regrettably to Sony and countless others this year too (nodding my head in astonishment).
#3 - Time calls "You" The Person of the Year - although dismissed in some circles, it says something when an old school magazine votes for the connected and wired individual person as the most interesting entity of the year. Traditional marketing flagbearers and laggards convert, the barbarians are at the gate.
#4 - Snakes on a Plane Rollercoaster - the poster boy for user-generated marketing blows up at the box office, barely reaching the totals another poor snake movie "Anaconda" achieved over a decade ago. The learnings - buzz can't survive a bad product, word of mouth must create reasonable expectations, mainstream success is not guaranteed until your influencers spread offline and online referral and even the coolest guy in Hollywood Samuel Jackson can't carry a bad flick by himself.
#5 - Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" - not since the Honda Cog have we seen such a brilliantly devised viral campaign for a mass produced category product. This idea tipped not because of the gag, the joke, the sexy shot, the Jackass stunt....it succeeded because it was a great brand idea, brilliantly executed and heartfelt and endorsed by its target. The fact that there was some legitimacy behind the creative through charity support and an important societal message makes this "Hall of fame" word of mouth stuff. Don't know who to give kudos here as success has many fathers but I do believe Canadians had a big role in the anti-supermodel approach to marketing. Creative directors be warned - well told and real brand stories that have online as a central pivot work better then your jazzy, mass produced TV ads with no core idea.
#6 Amanda Congdon Bails or Gets Tossed - the messy breakup in July at Rocketboom leaves hundreds of thousands without their modern day Walter Kronkite to deliver the news. Online history tells us celebrity can be a mercurial thing - from 700 watchers in 2004, to 300,000 in 2006 to short term obscurity and now a gig as new media reporter for ABC...that's a lot of change for two years.
#7 Rory Fitzpatrick an All Star Defencemen - professional hockey has bowed to the "power of the few" and the force behind social media. Based on a mock campaign waged by a Buffalo-based blogger to get a journeyman defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick from the Vancouver Canucks as a write-in nominee for the All-Star game. The stats at the time of this writing: 21 games, 0 points, 428,832 votes, 2nd place for All-Star defencemen balloting. Even his coach and goalie have gone online and voted multiple times for him. Given NHL sagging popularity, my hope is they live by the rules and let the people decide and allow Rory Fitzpatrick to play.
#8 All-Star Word of Mouth Firms - a trend in the agency business, whether independent or agency network, to get the celebrity veterans together in a thinktank as a boutique new media agency firms - Publicis created their hive with Denuo, Steve Rubel joined Edelman's me2revolution (perhaps a few months too early - see #2) and the all-star social media consultants launched Crayon and perhaps dubiously became the first company to launch in Second Life (didn't Al Gore invent the internet too?). See my post on the Canuck version to this approach called inukshuk.
#9 Canadian believers percolating - it may be my location in Toronto or perhaps my bias in thinking that Canucks are broad thinking, cosmopolitan and ahead-of-the-pack global citizens, but there is a buzz of activity about word of mouth in Canada. In cities across the country, there are meetups, conferences and gatherings enthusiastically collaborating on the subject - Third Tuesday, Word Up, Throng, Geek Dinner, Case Camp, Mesh, Canadian Institute of New Media and the revival of AIMS have all left their imprint on people. See here for my post on the top 50 Canadian Bloggers - the top 100 edition to follow in January 2007 and more good news to follow the rest of the year. We're at the start of something good!
#10 FTC Word of Mouth Guidelines - if we can't regulate ourselves then the FTC is more than happy to enact some rules in the U.S.. Announced in November, the simple rule being if you are going to accelerate word of mouth through the use of influencers, agents or a panel of regular people, you better disclose and if you don't the government will keep you honest. As a practitioner of word of mouth, all I can is "about time" - shill, astroturfing and roach bait marketers should go back to the caves where they came from and help the people in the "white hats" legitimize word of mouth as a healthy standalone channel.
#11 Second Life - New Age Media or Fancy of 2006 - with over 1,000,000 registered users, Second Life can hardly be dismissed as a niche media with no hope of a revenue model anymore. It will be telling over the next 18 months to know whether it can break out past its base. At this point, there's enough evidence to argue both sides.
My consolation headlines (add your contributions and I'll continue to add them below):
- WOMMA increases its base of members to over 330
- Lonely Girl, we hardly knew you
- Garth Turner gets Dooced
- Keller Fay announces Influencers have 184 word of mouth conversations every week
- Bit Torrent - the future of TV
- My Space - the number one visited website in the world (at least in page views)
- Facebook - from nowhere to the second biggest social network
- GM fights back with social media arsenal against Thomas Friedman and the New York Times
- BzzAgent raises over $15 million in VC
- China and Internet Censorship
- Pay Per Post - Blight or New Media Model
- Give Meaning - Open Source to Charity
- Five Things Meme Spread lIke Wildfire
- Technorati Reports 55 million blogs, Some of Them Good - 2 new ones created each second and 18 posts created each second
- Gartner Estimates 100 million blogs as the height of blogging in 2007, 200 million ex-bloggers cluttering up media space
- oh yeah and selfishly, The Influencers launches in Canada
- O'Reilly tries to patent Web 2.0 Trademark - Please, How Old old Are We!
- Engagdget, Gizmodo, Boing Boing, TechCrunch and The Huffington Post are Most Popular Blogs
- Microsoft 2007 Launches
- Apple Rolls Out iTunes Movies
- GM and the Chevy Tahoe UGM Experience
- Million Dollar Home Page
- New Brunswick Blogger Jailed
- Nike builds legions of soccer fans with Joga
- Banks yes, I said Banks launch podcasts - Van City and Scotiabank - Kudos.
- Canadian Bloggers take a Seat at the Adult Media Table
- Stromhoek Wines Harnesses Blogger Outreach
- Majority of Top 17 marketers in Canada use Word of Mouth as a Tool
- Daily Dose of Imagery still rocks, book of photos sell like hot cakes
- Macleans publishes "Does The internet Suck" - barb-tossing and debate continue
- Paris Hilton and Britney extend their 15 minutes through online fame
What were Your headlines for 2006?