Findings from a large tracking study of word of mouth presented at the AMA Executive Insights conference suggests that 93% of all word-of-mouth about a company or product takes place offline.
I can hear the collective sigh of relief from all those big corporate types who’ve had their eyes covered and ears plugged hoping all this online social media stuff would just go away already. Now they can point to credible research that says less than 10% of what is said about them happens online, and that certainly can’t justify major changes to how they’ve worked for decades.
First, a brief summary of what the research said.
The study, conducted by OMD, tells us that the majority of WOM is actually positive, about 64% overall was positive. Online comments tended to be more negative – 55% online comments were positive, while 65% of offline comments said something nice.
Some other interesting findings include:
- 90% of all WOM takes place offline
- 70% is face to face
- The proportion of WOM hapenning online has been steady over the period of the research
- Not surprisingly, online WOM is seen as less credible than offline conversations.
- People under 30 engage in online WOM more often than older people, but the vast majority, even for this age group, is offline.
The study did seem to put some truth behind a cultural sterotype, women are more likely than men to engage in WOM in general and to use the phone to spread and receive WOM. Men are more likely to do so online.
I tried to find a link to the presentation on OMD’s website, but could not.
So what’s the lesson for marketers? Do the old guys (and gals) down the hall get to say “we told you so. This online stuff isn’t worth paying attention to?”
Why should you bother to invest any resources in monitoring and participating in less than 10% of the conversations you customers are having? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go where almost all of the action is?
Here are two reasons why ignoring online buzz would be a huge mistake.
- What’s being said by those 10% is getting indexed by search engines. That means anyone, anywhere searching on your company or product is no more than a few clicks away from what was said. Not only is it easily accessible, it will be on a server somewhere forever.
- It’s nearly impossible for you to participate in most of the 90% of offline word-of-mouth. Since you can’t be there when Susie tells 12 of her friends how clueless a salesperson in one of your stores was, your only option is to be in the places you can go, mostly online, and get your side of the story out there in the hope of influencing those subsequent private conversations.
Here’s the bottom line.
Your customers are talking about you already, so you need to find a way to listen to and participate in the conversation.
Have a presence in the places you can go and use the unprecedented reach of the internet to leverage your message into offline conversations. Just remember to be real. Authentic conversation will be welcomed, even if that means having to say you screwed up, spin and corporate marketing-speak will be seen coming a mile away and will do nothing to help your cause.
Next time, we’ll take a look at how you can harness the wisdom of crowds to cut time and cost from your concept testing.