Word -of -mouth recommendations result in a person becoming a customer at a 15% higher rate than if the customer found out about it through a different means (Birkner, 2011).
Defined as unpaid promotion, online word-of-mouth marketing relates to a user recommending a product, service or brand online. And, undeniably, social media has to be the superior online platform for this highly effective type of marketing.
With its unique characteristics, social media presents enormous opportunities to businesses of all shapes, sizes and types. No enormous budgets are required. And yet, the rewards can be significant.
Three major characteristics of social media that offer a perfect foundation in which word-of-mouth marketing can flourish include:
Social media is user generated and shared. Much of the information does not originate from the business itself. Existing and prospective customers know that this type of marketing is less likely to be tainted by self-serving interests.
Social media content is potentially viral. What better marketing tool than one that delivers viral transmission. For example, an existing customer on Facebook can easily have 100 friends. As such, all it takes is one word-of-mouth recommendation and, in a second, all the customer's friends are provided with the information.
Social media consists of members / networks with social ties and social capital. From this perspective, the person making the recommendation is usually staking their reputation on it. Online users, generally, trust those in their network to deliver genuine and credible recommendations.
In order to realise the full potential of word-of-mouth marketing online, business must possess in-depth knowledge and understanding of what it is that is going to generate buzz in the first place. And, in order to achieve this, business must gain an intimate understanding of their customer, their characteristics, their values and beliefs. Only then, can a business come close to generating the full marketing potential that word-of-mouth is able to deliver.