If you run a small business or non-profit, you have probably heard the phrase, “social media is the new word of mouth,” but what does that phrase really mean? Is social media really replacing word of mouth advertising? Are more people using social media than they are talking to people face-to-face?
To help get to the bottom of this, we did a little research into what the data about word of mouth and social media tells us. Here’s what we found.
Word of Mouth Is Still Word of Mouth
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. This makes sense: unless your friend or family member is employed by the company you’re buying from, they will probably give you an unbiased view of a product or service. If they’re someone you trust, you’re more likely to trust their recommendation.
This data is pretty definitive: hearing from someone you trust is still the best form of advertising and this kind of recommendation is at the heart of word of mouth advertising.
“Social Media Is the New Word of Mouth” = There’s a Whole Lot of People Talking About Brands on Social Media
At the same time, as we’ve pointed out before, there are a whole lot of people on social media. And they’re talking about brands. A lot. So, when people say “social media is the new word of mouth,” what they really mean is that people talking to friends and family on social media about your brand is something important to pay attention to.
Think about it: would you rather your organization be the topic of conversation in a room full of 50 people or in a room full of 50,000 people? Social media is simply too big a part of consumers’ lives in the U.S. to ignore it.
Ideally, you want to get people talking positively about your brand on social media because if they’re talking about your brand positively, they are more likely to say nice things to other people who may be considering buying from you (or donating, if you’re a non-profit).
What Does This Mean for Small Businesses and Non-Profits?
What this means for smaller organizations is that they can leverage social media to increase brand awareness beyond their immediate customer (or donor) base. It can be difficult for smaller organizations, who typically have limited advertising budgets, to get the kind of “earned media” represented by word of mouth: meaning media that they don’t have to pay for.
Ironically, one of the best ways to get people talking about your brand is to advertise far and wide. If people are seeing your brand everywhere, chances are they will be talking about it. That’s how advertising works.
Social media is one of the most cost-effective forms of advertising you can engage in, however, because not only does it put your brand in front of consumers, it also invites them to engage with it. So, you get a two-for-one: consumers see your brand and they can talk about it right on the same platform.
Social Media Done Right Can Result in Powerful Word of Mouth
Social media can cut the other way, too, as we’ve seen when brands go nuclear in a very public way. Conversations on social media can quickly turn against you if customers are unhappy or if you are applying pressure tactics to make sales rather than building connections that can result in sales.
You want people talking about your brand on social media. That much is certain. There are just too many people on social media to ignore the potential it can have for positive word of mouth.
Need more information about what to do (and not to do) on social media? Check out this past article on that very topic: