Social Media vs Traditional Word of Mouth

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A study was recently released that examined the differences in perceived credibility between traditional word of mouth, personal blogs and corporate blogs.

Some quick definitions:
Traditional word of mouth: a friend, family member or acquaintance making a recommendation
Personal blog: a blog published by an individual
Corporate blog: a blog published by a company

The results of the study showed that people who are active online make very little distinction between the credibility of the three sources. Of the people less active online, traditional word of mouth and corporate blogs carried a heavier weight of authority than personal blogs.

What does this mean for you as an entrepreneur?

First, it means that as more people across all age levels become more active online the lines between these three platforms as credible resources will only continue to blur and become increasingly non-existent. A former bride's referral carries less weight now than it used to. If a bride says one thing about you, but there are posts online that disagree, those sources are now being considered with equal validity. Ignoring social media in favor of word of mouth referrals is no longer a sustainable marketing strategy.

Second, it means that it is important to be visible and referable across all three platforms. If the initial person who contacts you isn't active online, this is a chance to make sure that you're not ignoring submitting your work or expertise to corporate blogs to be featured. Vane from Brooklyn Bride wrote a guest post for Think Splendid on how to submit real weddings to blogs. Two Bright Lights also has a roster of pre-qualified editorial partners to help streamline the submission process for your workflow. 

Third, the blurring of credibility leaves ample opportunity for the ugly side of social media to show its face. False reviews from competitors, defamatory blog posts, etc are now treated with more importance than they were before. These things will happen whether or not you are involved online, but it will be much easier to manage them if you have an active social media footprint and are already involved in the community. If you join social media as a knee-jerk reaction to manage these issues, it will be much more difficult for you to protect your company's reputation.

What are your thoughts on the lines between blogs and traditional word of mouth becoming less defined?

*Note: I purchased this study through a subscription, and am unable to link to it.

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