Social recommendations – today’s most powerful marketing asset

Word-of-mouth recommendations are still the king of all kings

Conventional wisdom has necessitated that you try-before-you-buy when choosing big-ticket items. And yet, consumers are now more comfortable than ever buying “big” items online without ever stepping into a bricks and mortar store. The “try-before-you-buy” ethos has simply shifted to trusting the opinions and advice of others who have purchased before you, with more and more people turning to social media to ask friends, family or even complete strangers for advice and recommendations.

Marketers have known for years that word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is the most credible form of advertising because promoters don’t stand to gain anything personally by recommending the product and are even willing to put their own reputations on the line.  It’s a good day for a brand when satisfied customers happily share and swap their views about products and experiences.

Social media hasn’t changed the principles of marketing – word-of-mouth recommendations are still the king of all kings.  What has changed, though, is how far that word-of-mouth recommendation reaches.

Rewind ten years ago to a point before social media rooted itself in our culture. If someone had an awesome experience with your business a decade ago, they might have gone out and told a handful of their friends and family members. Past research found a satisfied customer, on average, would tell 5 to 7 of their friends.  Basically, word-of-mouth used to be fairly limited. Today, that same happy customer hops on Facebook, Twitter or their blog – sometimes before they even walk out of the business – and with a few keystrokes, they tell hundreds or thousands of their friends, family members and blog readers about their positive experience.

People trust product and brand recommendations from other people

People trust product and brand recommendations from other people more than they trust traditional media or advertising channels, and friends and family recommendations on social media channels:

  • 92% of consumers report that a word-of-mouth recommendation is the top reason they buy a product or service - (Source: Nielsen 2012)
  • 76% of consumers recommended companies they trust to a friend or colleague - (Source: Edelman)
  • 72% of consumers surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations(Source: Local Consumer Review Survey, 2012)
  • 58% of consumers trust a business which has positive online reviews (Source: Local Consumer Review Survey, 2012)
  • A Word of Mouth recommendation is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions - (Source: McKinsey Quarterly, April 2010)

Positive reviews, social sharing and word-of-mouth are all keys to successful marketing efforts both online and offline. People trust their friends more than ads or commercials, so it is important to try to reach the consumer in a way that builds trust, encourages sharing and fosters a climate for brand advocacy.


consumer decision making process has permanently shifted

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Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement and development and change management. International experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland View full profile

Nick Lewis

December 16, 2013 3:40 pm

Great article, Torben – thanks for sharing.

Of course, there is also the flip side of all this is customers (rightly or wrongly) discussing negative experiences of businesses on social media, occasionally with cynical intentions of getting future discounts and freebies.

Either way, businesses must remain alert for any kind of recommendation that they get online and respond accordingly.

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