According to a study published Wednesday by Rubicon Consulting, word of mouth marketing is still the #1 driver of purchase decisions. Among web users, online content has moved into second place, ahead of advice from salespeople and printed reviews.
The study upholds that roughly 10 percent of users create 90 percent of user-generated content on any given social media site. The report argues, however: "Web discussion is a performance in which a small group of people interact with each other, and with companies, for the benefit, education, and amusement of everyone else."
What this really means: even though a company might only interact with 10 percent of users online, you can bet your end-of-year bonus that a much larger percentage of customers will judge the company based on its online interactions.
When I've talked to various clients at Page One PR about incorporating social media campaigns into their existing marketing and PR plans, they're often unsure if target customers are receptive to social media tools. Interestingly, a recent poll by Forrester Research indicates 75 percent of Internet users participate in some form of social media in 2008 versus 56 percent in 2007.
Analyst Josh Bernoff argues this may just be a fad: "The novelty of today's social technologies will eventually wear off, and consumer adoption will plateau as all new media eventually do." Don't think that means social media's effectiveness will fade away, however, as Bernoff continues: "But consumers will expect marketers to continue the relationship they've formed over time and still listen to what they have to say."
Still skeptical about social media marketing? When was the last time you used online user-generated content to decide which book to buy or choose a new restaurant to try?