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Word-of-Mouth No Longer Limited to Friends, Family

Posted on 8.08.2007

There is absolutely no question that the face of effective advertising has changed. The new Web has opened up more avenues for word-of-mouth marketing (always coveted by advertisers - and that will never change) but the method of delivery and those making recommendations has taken a turn. Traditionally, word-of-mouth marketing relied on friends, family, acquaintances or coworkers. Not anymore.

According to a newly published Bridge Ratings/University of Massachusetts study, recommendations from strangers are nearly as effective as those from "known" sources. Asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 as a trusted source of information, respondents said "Friends, family and acquaintances" scored 8.6, while "Strangers with experience" scored 7.9 - up from 4.2 in the same study from 1997. That's quite a leap. "Strangers with experience" ranks above Teachers (7.3), Religious leaders (6.9) Newspapers and magazines (6.1) and bloggers (2.8).

Why are people suddenly trusting strangers? Consumer websites have done an excellent job gathering user reviews and testimonials, by way of opening up their sites to the public. Now, simply a recommendation or rating (think Amazon's star rating system) is enough for a consumer to feel they are getting reliable information about a product or service. So it should go without saying that websites, especially e-commerce sites, should feature testimonials, ratings or some form of consumer feedback to help facilitate conversions.

Where did advertising rank in the study? A dismal 2.2 rating as a source for trusted information - second to last, just above telemarketers at 1.8.

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