Old-fashioned conversation still fosters the most word-of-mouth

Social media is known as a venue for brand discussions, but social sites, and digital in general, are still not the first choice for shoppers talking brands.

A December 2010 survey by loyalty marketing researcher COLLOQUY found that several more traditional methods of discussion came out far ahead of social networking when consumers were asked how they share information about products and services. Face-to-face conversation was the No. 1 channel, even among young adults.

The digital channel used most for product discussions was mobile—when used for conversations, however, not text messages. Only 35% of the overall population, and 56% of the young adult population, talked about products and services on social sites.

Communication Methods Used to Discuss Products/Services According to US Young Adults vs. General Population, Dec 2010 (% of respondents in each group)

Meanwhile, consumers’ overall likelihood of recommending products may be decreasing. The COLLOQUY report suggested that the reason for a nearly 20-point drop in respondents saying they often recommend products or services to others is due to the economic downturn. Cash-strapped shoppers are less likely to be purchasing new-to-them items deemed worthy of discussion.

US Consumers Who Often Recommend Products/Services They Use to Others, 2009 & 2011 (% of respondents)

If overall brand conversations are decreasing, it could be hampering growth in those conversations on the social web. Earlier research suggests the figure for social network product discussions has been about one-third or lower for a while. An April 2010 survey from ROI Research found that 33% of Twitter users shared product opinions weekly; about a fifth of Facebook users did the same. A Harris Poll taken the same month found 19% of US social media users shared product reviews and recommendations. Meanwhile, research has consistently shown figures in the 70% to 80% range for face-to-face discussions.

The wide usage of social media and viral nature of discussions mean product recommendations on services like Facebook and Twitter are still worth fostering, but marketers must remember most word-of-mouth tips are still unseen—and untrackable—as part of consumers’ everyday conversations.

SOURCE eMarketer

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