According to a 2009 Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries, 90% say they trust recommendations from a friend above all other options. That’s not surprising but what is illuminating is the second highest trust agents, coming in at a whopping 70%, was consumer opinions posted online and on brand websites.
Word of mouth or buzz marketing has always been the Holy Grail of brand growth but also the most challenging to generate on a budget. Small and mid-sized businesses often find themselves struggling to find cost effective new ways to promote themselves, their special offerings and create positive buzz about themselves.
Social media platforms provide a way for entrepreneurs and businesses, small and large, to generate word of mouth buzz without busting the budget. Even digital immigrants can translate good old fashioned customer service into new media customer engagement with a minimum amount of effort. Social media marketing is, in the end, still marketing and a strategic marketing plan can utilize this new delivery system for that message.
From media giants like Comcast whose nearly 38,000 Twitter followers carry on a lively daily conversation aimed at providing the best customer service possible to local Philadelphia television station, the CW Philly who makes live Twitter responses to morning broadcasts a regular segment on their show to Draught Horse, a pub and restaurant using Twitter to announce special giveaways and events to their more modest list of 230 followers, businesses are reaching out to consumers via social media.
In addition to communicating with current and potential customers via Facebook and Twitter, social media is an efficient and real-time reputation management tool. Philadelphia’s mass transit system, SEPTA, posts regular notices of delays or problems on Twitter to keep riders up to date. Comcast responds to customer complaints on their Twitter page, quickly and in plain site, earning them a reputation as a customer-focused company.
The Neilsen report is worth reading for other insights into consumer trust factors such as editorial content, brand sponsorships and television.