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Branding and Social Media

Brand Advocates Drive Word Of Mouth


Brand advocates are vital to social media marketing strategies because of the word of mouth (WoM) they generate.

Positive WoM is the most coveted form of marketing because of the inherent credibility that comes with it. When satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product, service, brand, or event, they put their reputations on the line every time they make a recommendation. Others typically know the people making recommendations don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something, therein lies the credibility. How much credibility?

Here’s some important information to provide the proper context:

  • Every day in the United States over three billion brand mentions occur in nearly 4½ billion conversations
  • Ninety percent of the conversations regarding brand happen offline via face-to-face conversation, or voice-to-voice conversations
  • Approximately 70 percent of Americans trust online reviews
  • Nearly 80 percent of Americans trust online reviews about hotels and travel
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars is the average rating for online reviews of products and services in the United States
  • Specific brand names are mentioned 60 times weekly in online and offline conversations by typical Americans
  • The majority of conversations taking place around a specific product or service are positive. The chances are good if an individual is talking about your brand, they’re saying something good
  • Two-thirds of WoM conversations related to a brand are primarily positive
  • Less than 10 percent of WoM conversations pertaining to a brand are primarily negative

What Did They Say?

Consumers become engrossed in hearing about new products that are of interest to them, and pay close attention to what other people are saying about these products. Surveys conducted with over 10,000 American social media users indicated that over 75 percent of these consumers are more likely to try new things based on suggestions they learned via social media. Over 70 percent of these consumers are more apt to get on the bandwagon and encourage their friends to try new products. In addition, 55 percent of recommendations made by consumers are based specifically on the customer service experience they had with a company. And nearly 30 percent of consumers are willing to pay 15 percent or more to outstanding customer experiences.

Clearly, that extra 15 percent could do wonders for increasing earnings. In September 2012, published research conducted by economists at the University of California-Berkeley found that a half-star improvement on Yelp’s 5-star rating made a restaurant between 30 – 49 percent more likely to reach maximum seating capacity during evenings. The researchers at Berkeley concluded online reviews played an increased importance in the consumers’ judgment of the quality of products and services.

Word Of Mouth Is The Most Influential Driver Of Purchasing Decisions

Word of Mouth is the by far the number one most influential driver of purchasing decisions for nearly all categories of products and services. According to the global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, more than 65 percent of the U.S. economy is driven by WoM! Based on the research conducted by Forrester, 500 billion WoM brand impressions are posted daily on the social web. That’s about 180 trillion online brand impressions in a single year. Forrester also claims 150 people are reached by each WoM post on the social web. This is attributed to the number of friends people have on social networks like Facebook and Google+, and the number of retweets via Twitter. It’s hard to get one’s head around 500 billion word of mouth brand impressions being posted on the social web on a daily basis; 180 trillion annually is mind boggling. What’s crystal clear is the powerful benefits inherent to positive WoM via earned media.

Investing In Word Of Mouth Marketing Is Very Beneficial

While it wasn’t referred to as word of mouth marketing at the time, WoM mouth and its inherent influence has been around for ages. Fostering positive word of mouth is a very worthwhile investment.  Owned media, (websites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts), paid media, (display advertising, paid search, and sponsorship), are important, but no form of marketing provides greater returns than earned media. Savvy marketers focus on the positive impacts word of mouth marketing can have on the bottom line and brand image.

Word of mouth marketing is inexpensive. Companies can spend as much money on it as they like – companies that execute the best practices in word of mouth marketing focus on the basics – delighting customers with excellent service and experiences. They also create great products and services worth talking about, their representatives are pleasant, they listen persistently, and engage customers in dialogues. Word of mouth marketing saves companies money on advertising, which is expensive, and consumers routinely ignore.

Public relations can be quite effective at generating awareness and positioning products, but PR isn’t cheap. Occasionally a crisis may occur within a company and PR is required for crisis management to help manage the issue, and overcome the negative word of mouth. However, it’s pathetic when companies need to spend money on public relations to overcome negative word of mouth that stems from poor customer service and lackluster customer experiences.

Positive Word Of Mouth Saves Organizations Money

Forward thinking companies will save money via the positive word of mouth their happy customers generate, which allows investing in programs and processes that result in even better customer service, more stimulating customer experiences, and more development to enhance products. The more companies can do to give customers great reasons to talk about how thrilled they are, the more this upbeat cycle perpetuates. The outcome is legions of brand loyalists who want to share about their positive experiences. Having delighted customers who find reasons to talk about brands is a competitive advantage smart companies should diligently strive to achieve.

Companies that listen persistently, incorporate relevant feedback via Voice of Customer initiatives to learn about issues, areas that need improvement, and engage their customers in meaningful dialogues – the better suited companies are to glean valuable information from these conversations (information and ideas that wouldn’t otherwise come to light). Customers are a fantastic source of new ideas for companies they’re loyal to, but only the companies that are engaged and have brand advocacy programs in place are able to benefit from their customers’ collective vision. In addition, positive WoM from customers can lead to incremental business for companies. I know of a real world case in the software industry where a delighted customer recommended a software company’s product to another company, this resulted in a multi-million dollar contract. Delighted customers don’t just recommend consumer products; they are sources for referrals for B2B companies as well.

Keys To Creating Word Of Mouth

Vital components to creating positive word of mouth include creating experiences for consumers that are emotional and topical. We know peers rely on each other as their most trusted resources for recommendations and are well connected via their social networks. Adaptive marketers should leverage social networks to gain access to consumers to generate awareness and build credibility with their brand. Prior to attempting to penetrate a particular segment of people via social networks, savvy marketers should first utilize nontraditional media and events to evoke an emotional response and create relevance in the minds of consumers. Since consumers are increasingly leery of advertising, the combination of mobile tours, onsite promotions, product giveaways and cause marketing can all be utilized to establish mind share and create emotional connections with potential customers.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: Stephen Monaco, excerpted from his book Insightful Knowledge: An Enlightened View of Social Media Strategy & Marketing

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1 Comment

Gregory Yankelovich
Twitter: piplzchoice
on September 01st, 2013 said

Derrick, excellent read. Companies often struggle with WoM marketing concept and this article connects very eloquently the social reputation and revenues. Unfortunately I could not find the research from Berkeley University you refer to and would really appreciate the link.

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