eMarketer recently reported on research conducted by Hiscox, in which they surveyed 304 business decision makers. 64% of those polled said social media was either not necessary or not something they had an opinion about. Yet half of all respondents said they couldn’t do without word-of-mouth marketing.
Firstly, a couple of caveats. This survey was done in the US, and it was of small businesses. Nevertheless, it highlights the question, what is social media for? We can’t disaggregate social media from word of mouth, because word of mouth is an inherent part of social media. Sharing, commenting, tweeting, and talking to your friends are obvious examples of social behaviour via Facebook, Twitter and so on. Even ‘liking’ is a statement to other people about what you’re interested in. Of course, for some brands social media has to be about driving consideration and preference. Yet, even for these brands, one of the ways in which they can achieve this is through word of mouth.
But let’s not forget that social media is also about developing relationships with people and thereby loyalty. Yet as our research shows, people who have an ongoing relationship with brands are among those most likely to recommend those brands, whether it’s face to face or online.
Steve is Head of Thought Leadership at Starcom MediaVest, London