That maturation coincides with the revolution of what Mike Brewer, EVP at Brodeur, calls the "third screen." Mobile devices - following in the footsteps of televisions and computer monitors - are quickly becoming the next frontier, and as the technology advances, PR pros are beginning to see its full potential.
"A mobile device [is] with you all the time," says Brewer. "The opportunity to create and spread word of mouth is so instant that it changes the dynamic of what 'word of mouth' means."
Brewer says the potential exists to change the entire nature of an event. And with "smart phones" becoming increasingly sophisticated, no one knows how we'll be able to communicate in a year or two. Likewise, word of mouth is a growing practice precisely because of its targeted nature.
"What ties these two things together is [that] they rely on consumer engagement versus interruption," says Paul Rand, president and CEO of Zocalo Group.
But as with every new frontier, there's a slippery slope in avoiding bombarding consumers with unwanted content.
Joe Chernov, director of PR for BzzAgent, says it's the same challenge marketers face with Facebook, where visitors show up to socialize and not to be sold. Brewer says it's that point that remains crucial for mobile.
"The fact is, we have a responsibility to allow people to ask for information from us, instead of pushing it," Brewer says. "[That] requires much more sophistication in understanding your audience, getting to them and encouraging them to ask for something."
But what remains unsolved in the word-of-mouth world, says Chernov, are the metrics that will define their success. "We know how many conversations we get, but we don't know how much more valuable those conversations are versus other metrics."
"Smart phone" advances promote the rapid spread of word-of-mouth news
Mobile technology allows for greater targeted "opt in" messaging impact
Comparative metrics for word of mouth are steadily progressing