There are consistently new flavors of Oreos, and each new flavor seems to be a little more unconventional than the last—although the Dark Chocolate, released last month, appears mainstream enough to become a permanent addition.


Still, the number of different flavors of all kinds of products being launched is rising dramatically. That means brands have had to find new, innovative ways to advertise their products with a quick turnaround, particularly when some of the launches are limited time offers.


Following up on Oreo’s bent toward experimental flavor, Nabisco is among the companies that use word-of-mouth for much of its marketing. Consumer reliance on social media outlets has increased, and it has become a cheap and efficient way of spreading information on new products. When a new flavor hits the store floor, such as carrot cake, consumers who purchase the product will, almost without fail, post something for social currency.


Years ago we saw food manufacturers reluctant to enter the social media world, sure that their audience was within foodservice circles and not direct-to-consumer. They’ve learned, however, that the consumer drives the decision at its most basic level, and that everyone—regardless of their place in the food creation cycle, is subject to the lure of social media. Digital word-of-mouth is now a staple of food and beverage companies, but it goes beyond that category, too.


Apple recently relisted its well-regarded budget handset, the iPhone SE, putting it back on its website under the clearance section. Regardless of that placement, the relisted phone elicited a great response from consumers, and immediately sold out. Note that Apple did not announce its decision to bring back the two-year-old phone, or create a big advertising budget. They used social media.


The tech giant appears to be paying attention to what it can learn from social media, too. For example, the company has recorded a noticeable decrease in demand for its flagship phones in annual sales, and is even rumored to be releasing a new version of the SE in response to vocal consumer criticism of Apple’s ballooning price points.


Just like Apple, Verizon has been subtly releasing products as well. Verizon launched its new budget-friendly, app-based carrier service, Visible, with no fanfare, no campaign, nothing—it is by invitation only, and you can only get an invitation from someone who already has the service.


It seems that two of the biggest communication tech companies on the planet are using digital word-of-mouth to test how the consumer market will react to price changes, and how that price change would affect the current products and services offered. The usefulness of social media has greatly impacted a company’s ability to roll out new products and services, whether it’s tech or food. Word of the newest, latest, and greatest spreads faster than it ever did, with the capability of reaching millions in a matter of just hours.


And businesses are not the only ones taking notice.


The United States Army has taken to social media to spread its recruitment beyond its normal conservative strongholds. With a new focus on Gen Z, Instagram has become one of the Army’s tools of choice, posting various memes and other content to get people talking about the Army in places where serving wouldn’t otherwise be a topic.  Streaming sites such as Twitch have given the Army another avenue of engagement through eSports. Already, thousands of soldiers have signed up to represent the U.S. military on the national stage through a new official team.


The use of social media has nearly limitless benefits for companies. After all, when everyone is connected on online, television ads are no longer your only ingredient for success. Social media reaches consumers ways that television and radio never could, and it’s a two-way conversation.


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