Organizations and Stakeholders

Is your audience listening to its friends?

I heard it through a friend that word-of-mouth advertising is the best marketing you can get your hands on. In recent years, companies have depended on boosting their image using social media. They use the social media to have conversations with shareholders who will tell their friends, who will tell their friends… The phenomena looked like this representation of Social Media Marketing Revolution Animation of Audience Growth.

The Edelman Trust Barometer, a recent study of who people trust as it deals with business, found that people are putting less trust in what their friends tell them about corporations.

In Michael Bush’s article, “In Age of Friending, Consumers Trust Their Friends Less,” in Advertising Age, he talked about the president and CEO of Edelman, Richard Edelman, said that companies are going to have to rely on more than just peer-to-peer advertising because we live in times that people second-guess sources of information.

One group of sources of information that gained trust in the business-place in the past year was CEOs. It might be useful for your organization to use a CEO blog in addition to counting on WOM advertising to reach its audience.

In his blog post, “What does the decline of peer trust mean for social marketing?” Jesse Stanchak says that he’s friends with a lot of friends-of-friends on Facebook, but he wouldn’t necessarily believe them when they say they like something from a particular company.

I can relate to this because I’m not going to go see a movie some person from my old high school said was good in his Facebook status. I am more likely to see the movie if one of my close friends said it – but social media marketing has always been about spreading your corporate image to as many acquaintances as possible.

I’m not saying your organization doesn’t have to give up on its peer-to-peer advertising goals, but it can’t count on it to alone. You’re going to have to take measures to think of other sources potential customers will trust.


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  1. * Kristin Dyer says:

    The idea of word of mouth advertising is getting a lot of positive responses lately. I think that it is very important for a company to provide customer satisfaction and make that their number one priority in order to increase positive press about themselves. While it is important to use word of mouth, companies need to continue to put resources into more traditional resources to insure trust from a credible source about their product. Word of mouth can sometimes be unreliable because everyone has their own opinions about everything so viewpoints can be skewed. A balance between traditional and nontraditional sources of advertising needs to be reached to be successful.

    | Reply Posted 9 years ago
  2. I’m on the fence about how I feel about word of mouth marketing. Though I know corporations cannot lean too heavily on this type of marketing (because let’s face it, the word on the street could be that your company sucks), but I do believe it is incredibly effective. No, I would not see a movie simply because a friend of a friend of mine said it was incredible. BUT, I would see a movie if 20 friends of friends of mine said it was incredible. The same goes for a soft drink or the latest coffee invention at Starbucks. Or even for a brand of clothing. I think it’s all relative. Some people are VERY trusting, or even TOO trusting. Some are paranoid and require that mountains be moved for them to believe in something. Everyone is different.

    | Reply Posted 9 years ago
    • I would also see a movie if 20 of my friends said to, but it does matter who said it. I will definitely go see it if I think my friends that said it are most like me. To me, it’s not really about how many of my friends said it as much as which of my friends told me I should go see it.

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 12 months ago
  3. * Jillian Whalen says:

    I think the word of mouth advertising comes into play depending on what is being promoted. I’m not going to buy something substantial, like a car or something, just because someone told me about it in passing. But I think it really does work on the smaller things. I know that one of my friends had a specific brand of sunglasses, and just by word of mouth, at least five us have the same ones now. If major companies and corporations are relying heavily on this kind of advertising, they might want to rethink their strategy.

    | Reply Posted 9 years ago
    • That’s a really good point, Jill. I think it does depend on what kind of purchase you’re making. In the case of buying a new computer or a car, I would probably still consider what others have said about it. The question is not so much would I believe word-of-mouth advertising as would I believe it from my friends?

      The last phone I bought was a LG Dare. Before I bought it, I read blog posts of people I didn’t know about the phone. I updated my Facebook status asking my friends on Facebook if anyone had the Dare and how they liked it. There were mixed reviews on the Verizon blog, but I liked what the positive ones had to say. My cousin responded to my Facebook status saying his Dare broke three months after buying it. Even though my cousin didn’t like it, I still bought the Dare, so I guess I don’t listen to the people close to me. But I would listen to the positive reviews of people I don’t know.

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 12 months ago
  4. i agree, but I also believe people do look to their peers and acquaintances for advice with whom to go to. Obviously, people won’t listen to strangers, but I do believe that if one sees a good review on an acquaintance profile, they will research that company more. And these days, word of mouth travels very far, especially negative comments. Its also very important to look at everyone’s input and experiences when choosing the right company because you want an overall perspective of a company, not just one perspective because he or she is your best friend.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 12 months ago
    • Thanks for your comment Rebecca. I bet I would be more likely to listen to my friends about negative experiences with products than positive words they might have to say. I do look to people close to me for advice when I am looking to buy a certain product, but if they just randomly told me that I should go buy that product for whatever reason, I probably wouldn’t.

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 12 months ago

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