How Social Media Stole Word of Mouth
It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand why so many businesses (and people, for that matter) are apprehensive to trust website marketing. Over a dinner party, I found myself arguing with my friends about the necessity of digital marketing, meanwhile, they were clinging on to the belief that word of mouth is the most powerful way for a business to thrive, above online marketing and webpage design.
I would agree that positive testimonials are an amazing tool for business development, but what if “word of mouth” has become “word of keyboard”? What if the next time I wanted to go to a pet groomer, I didn’t call you first and relied on the information that the internet provides for me? Where is “word of mouth” then?
What I’m getting at is this: Social Media has stolen the stage from word of mouth, and it has a louder microphone with a larger crowd.
Almost everyone has some kind of social media account. I can’t think of a single person off the top of my head who doesn’t have ANY social media presence, although I am not suggesting they do not exist. I’m sure your second-cousin’s roommate’s father doesn’t have a Facebook, and I am not speaking directly to them at this moment. My point is, with so many people invested in their Snapchat and Instagram accounts, they have so much information at their fingertips. Always.
So, what does social media have to do with word of mouth? Social media is a way for people from all over the world to connect with one another in real time, regardless of where they are sitting or with what device. If we all have social media, then this becomes the easiest platform to communicate with one another, and that communication is not limited; these platforms are a very effective way to gather business intel to make decisions. What better way to spread consumer awareness?
Getting a hold of friends with urgency isn’t always possible. We are also busier than ever before. Whether we are busy with our work, our family, ourselves, or any combination of the three, finding time to get everything done is near impossible. It is a rare occasion when I call or text someone and have them get back to me right away, and an even rarer occasion reversed. How do we find new businesses or products without having a friend nearby for suggestions? Surely, I don’t expect you to put your lunch on hold so I can tell you my favorite place to dine when I have the time. Ain’t nobody got time for that. So how can word of mouth be the most effective way to gain new business? It isn’t.
We still second guess the opinions of people we trust.I trust my sister on almost everything, but I cannot emphasize the word “almost” enough. When it comes to food (most things in my life come down to food, somehow), I don’t trust my beautiful vegan sister as far as I can throw her. I admit she has introduced me to some fabulous vegan restaurants, but the moment she suggests a place to eat, I immediately take out my phone and scan the reviews. I believe her when she says she had the best three bean chili at wherever, but that’s just one person’s opinion. So, I ask myself, “What does everyone else think?” Like many people, I seek validation.
This isn’t an uncommon way to react. What is the point of social media? In fact, the whole reason we read reviews is to get an idea of the experience we can expect. Thanks to social media, most of us find ourselves less surprised and more satisfied as a consumer than ever before.
Many think of reviews as their social duty. This might sound silly, but it’s true. There are all kinds of reviewers out there, from the ones who exclusively leave positive reviews, to the ones who love leaving awful reviews, to everything in between. But they all have one thing in common; every time they pull out their phone or open up their Yelp page on their desktop, they think they are doing a service to the community. What do you do about negative reviews? While it is more likely for someone to leave a bad review than a good one, with the utilization of social media, that is starting to shift a bit.
Now that social media is becoming an integral part in digital marketing and business development, companies are remembering to ask for good reviews to combat the bad ones. My dentist has got to be one of the best, but I never remember to leave him a good review. I actually appreciate when they send me a follow-up email asking for a review. It is extremely important to have that business-consumer relationship. While only a reviewer can take down their negative review, with open communication and an attempt to rectify their experience, company’s now have the chance to make a change in how they are viewed in the community.
There are almost too many businesses out there, and the truth is, we get our pick of the litter. Now that social media contains both positive and negative reviews, it’s easier to make an educated decision about what businesses we choose to trust. In theory, we still use a type of “word of mouth”, but it now falls under a digital marketing category, and it’s spread has never been wider.
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