Positive word of mouth consistently trumps as being more credible than other advertising methods such as newspaper advertising, online searches and mail/email marketing. A Nielsen Global survey of trust in advertising, conducted in 2013 of more than 29,000 people in 58 countries (including Australia), showed Asia-Pacific respondents were most willing to trust (85 per cent) and take action (88 per cent) based on recommendations from friends and family and opinions posted online.
Globally, people were most likely to trust recommendations from people they know, branded websites, and consumer opinions posted online, respectively.
In the Nielsen global survey, 56 per cent trust email messages they’d signed up for, and 48 per cent trusted advertisements generated by search engine results. Online video advertisements (48 per cent) and advertisements on social networks (48 per cent) have gained ground and won more trust.
US Small Business Trends and Verizon, a US communications technology, company conducted a survey of Philadelphia small business owners in 2014 in relation to word of mouth’s effectiveness and the results were almost identical (85 per cent) to a study it had conducted online in 2005 (83 per cent)v.
Verizon states that social media is on the rise as a “word of mouth” medium. For example, it is common for people to request local business recommendations from their friends on Facebook.
Marketing agencies have recognised that word of mouth is a critical element in promoting their clients, so they work with “super influencers”, who are available for hire. Unlike using celebrities, whose advertisements only resonated with 12 per cent of global consumers, “super influencers” are everyday people who have large social networks, or are bloggers with thousands of readers.
For example, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service worked with Social Soup, an agency that found 750 30-54 year olds who were “well connected, online and offline and had not donated in the past five years”. They were family and community-minded, worked or lived near a blood donation centre and had a high-level of persuasion in their social and work environments. They shared their experience online via Facebook and Twitter, explaining why they made the decision to donate, and created 300 online reviews, with most giving a 4.4 star rating out of 5.
How to create positive word of mouth
Research shows that when creating online word of mouth, a company should design its information so it’s easy for consumers to forward to friends. Firstly, it must be useful, accurate and important. Secondly, it should be trustworthy, credible and reliable. Ultimately, consumers like interesting information from a credible source, which has the most chance of triggering a ripple or viral effect.
Pinterest is good for displaying visual products or services (interiors, hairdressing or nail design), whereas Yelp! is for customers to rate businesses and write reviews. LinkedIn has a search function for finding services.
Away from the online world, small business owners should focus on building rapport and exceptional interaction with customers by providing a personalised approach. Reliability and professionalism create positive experiences. Unfortunately, if things go wrong, consumers are more likely to talk about your business, irrespective of the quality of your product, and bad news spreads fast.