Why Social Media and Word of Mouth Are Not the Same Thing

why social media word of mouth not the same thing

Social media itself isn’t word of mouth — it’s one way that
word of mouth spreads. #wordofmouth

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In our social media-dominated world, most people have the
impression that word of mouth has transitioned from in-person
conversations to retweets and direct messages. They believe that
social media IS word of mouth. Not true.

Social media garners plenty of attention and
marketing budgets
. But offline chatter is an equal, and
sometimes more impactful, driver of awareness and preference.

It’s not that social media and online word of mouth
don’t matter; they do. In fact, half of all word of mouth takes
place online. However, research shows that
offline word of mouth is more persuasive
. According to a study
by the Keller Fay
Group
, 50 percent of consumers say they are very likely to make
a purchasing decision based on a real-life conversation. Meanwhile,
43 percent of consumers feel the same way after an online
discussion.

It’s also important to understand that social media itself
isn’t word of mouth; it’s one way that word of mouth spreads.
Word of mouth is a story or recommendation. Social media is a
conveyance mechanism for that story. So is a review. So is a phone
call. So is a conversation.

Thus, having a popular Instagram account is not the same as
using thoughtful word of mouth. Likes and comments are quite
different and less effective than word-of-mouth
recommendations.

word of mouth vs social

The Math on Why
Word of Mouth
Matters

A single recommendation from an influencer spreads at an annual
rate of eight factorial, according to Ted Wright, author of
Fizz. Setting aside any complex math, a single recommendation
passed from person to person over the course of a year ultimately
reaches a total of 40,370 people. In other words, that
recommendation from one person impacts 40,369 other potential
customers.

We have LOTS more research on word of mouth in our new study,

Chatter Matters: The 2018 Word of Mouth Report

What business wouldn’t want to cultivate these
conversations and quickly multiply the number of people passing
along positive recommendations? In spite of this potential,
relatively few companies — think less than 1 percent — have an
actual plan for word-of-mouth marketing.

Instead, most businesses are putting all their eggs in the
social media basket. Social media budgets in the U.S. are projected
to jump from $4.3 billion in 2012 to more than $23 billion in 2019.
Even with this eye-popping spending spree, social media remains
less effective than traditional person-to-person exchanges when it
comes to word of mouth.

Offline conversations are incredibly powerful, though these
discussions are difficult to track for your average marketing team.
It’s hard to know if and when these comments happen. Jonah Berger, the author of
Contagious, explains word of mouth perfectly:

You can shape it, you can encourage it, you can drive it, but
you can’t buy it.

This might make it seem like generating word of mouth is
impossible, but there’s a secret weapon for creating these
organic conversations: talk triggers.

Give Them Something to Talk About

Establishing impactful word of mouth begins with giving people
something they cannot help but talk about. It could be as simple as
a cookie on a hotel pillow, funny hold music, or an unusually
extensive menu.

Establishing impactful word of mouth begins with giving people
something they cannot help but talk about. #TalkTriggers

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These
talk triggers
are noteworthy experiences that your customers
will rush to share with their friends and family members. Those
people will then share that same story (or at least a close
approximation of it) with their friends.

The good news? Your talk trigger can be just about anything. The
only real criterion is that it must be uncommon or remarkable
enough to get noticed.

Confused about what is and what isn’t a talk trigger? We talk
about the four requirements for a talk trigger in
my new book
, written with Daniel Lemin:

A talk trigger must be:

  1. Remarkable
  2. Relevant
  3. Reasonable
  4. Repeatable

One talk trigger with incredible longevity comes to us courtesy
of the banking world. In this seemingly unremarkable industry where
every bank offers pretty much the same services as the next one,
brands must truly do something noteworthy to get people
talking.

Umpqua Bank,
headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is one of the 50 largest banking
chains in the U.S. Each of Umpqua’s more than 300 locations
prominently displays a silver telephone in its lobby. Since 1994,
any customer can pick up one of these phones to be instantly
connected with the company’s CEO. Not the manager of the branch
or even the region — a direct line to the leader of the
company.

It’s easy to imagine how
this feature triggers conversations that positively affect the
brand. Whenever a customer picks up the silver phone (whether he or
she has something to say or is simply checking to see whether the
phone actually works), president and CEO Cort O’Haver answers to
create truly talk-worthy experiences.

Moving Beyond Social Media Buzz

Getting people talking and earning word-of-mouth recommendations
involves more than chance — it requires a strategic plan.
Andy Sernovitz,
co-founder of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, encourages
marketers to see social and offline as valuable but different
tools. Social is useful in that it is instantly shareable, but
offline truly shines for its credible repeatability.

There’s nothing wrong with pairing the yin with the yang —
offline and social in this case — but truly effective
word-of-mouth marketing requires a lot more than a few buzzworthy
tweets. Instead of throwing the bulk of your marketing dollars into
the social media abyss, invest some of your valuable resources into
creating truly noteworthy experiences. Your customers will be
enamored, and their real-life networks will be more than happy to
spread the word.

For more information on Talk Triggers, visit the official site, packed
with free resources.

And, our team at Convince & Convert helps interesting brands
create their own
word of mouth strategy
.

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Why Social Media and Word of Mouth Are Not the Same Thing

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