Why consumers would rather make recommendations in person than on facebook.

Many marketers find online recommendations useful for their brand. Now a new study shows why most consumers prefer to share their opinions offline, rather than online.

Online and offline WOM from a marketing point of view.

At trnd, we are constantly dealing with different word-of-mouth objectives - for some clients, it makes sense to get consumers to spread word of mouth on the Social Web. Their products are more costly and durable, so it's more useful for them to spread reviews and opinions across the Web. As consumers try to reduce risk when a product is more costly, the various postings from campaign participants leave a positive impact on the brand's search rankings, and on the overall perception potential buyers get when they look for the brand online.

Other clients make consumable products that people buy frequently in the supermarket, at lower costs. People don't usually research such products online before a purchase. As a consequence, spontaneous offline recommendations and real-world trial, usually based on product samples, is a much more suitable approach to WOM for these brands. But that, of course, is the marketing point of view.

Consumers prefer to recommend a brand face-to-face.

An interesting new piece of research now looks at the consumer side of this issue. The researchers found that consumers generally prefer to share their opinions offline, rather than on social networking sites! The reason: people find it more risky to share permanently available opinions with a large circle of online friends; when speaking offline to a smaller circle they can control better to whom and how their opinion spreads.

The willingness to share on Social Media sites reaches the same level as offline only for those consumers who have a high need to "enhance their public profile". In other words: those who have particular concerns about how they are perceived by others will be as happy to use social sites for sharing their opinions as real-world conversations.

This is matched by our own observations from our WOM campaigns: generally, offline WOM far outnumbers online WOM in campaigns that do not have a specific focus on online WOM.

The study: Eisingerich, A.B., et al., Why recommend a brand face-to-face but not on Facebook? How word-of-mouth on online social sites differs from traditional word-of-mouth, Journal of Consumer Psychology (2014).

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