Word of Mouth Becoming Less Face to Face, More Social Media

CINCINNATI -- Social media has emerged as the new go-to word-of-mouth (WOM) format, with consumers relying less on face-to-face and phone conversations to discuss their favorite brands, likes and dislikes.

According to Colloquy's report, Hashtags, Tweets and Likes: Nurturing Digital Word-of-Mouth Engagement, social media brand recommendations have grown 4 percent since 2011. At the same time, face-to-face recommendations have declined 4 percent.

In previous WOM research, Colloquy coined the term "WOM Champions" to describe the select group of consumers who are most loyal to, engaged with and willing to recommend brands. In this latest report, Colloquy Research Director Jeff Berry explained that WOM champions are driving the move to social media.

Specifically, the 2013 research found this particular group is almost twice as likely to recommend brands via digital channels compared to the general population. Six out of 10 WOM Champions use social networking communities to recommend or discuss products and services, the latest research shows.

"Brands that want to spread the digital word should engage WOM Champions found in their loyalty programs," Berry said. "That will be done most effectively by focusing on young adults, women and Hispanics, the segments with the most WOM Champions."

Among young adults who participate in loyalty programs, 40 percent are WOM Champions. Close behind are women at 38 percent and Hispanics at 37 percent, Colloquy said.

In another key finding from Hashtags, Tweets and Likes, nearly half of the general population believes social networks are an inappropriate way for brands to interact with customers. However, that sentiment isn't shared across the board. The research shows that 73 percent of the youth segment said it is appropriate.

Colloquy's 2013 WOM study is based on a June survey conducted among a representative general population group and five other segments: affluent consumers, young adults, seniors, core women and Hispanics. Results are based on responses from 2,980 U.S. survey participants.

Colloquy is the research arm of LoyaltyOne, a global provider of loyalty and marketing programs. LoyaltyOne is an Alliance Data company.

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