Picture yourself engaged in the time-honored ritual of having a conversation with a friend. The topic at hand revolves around a company brand, its products and whether a purchase is justified. We have all been in this situation –in fact, probably a number of times each and every single day. So which do you think is a more reliable word of mouth mechanism in both lending credibility and compelling people to buy? A simple search? Or, perhaps, is dialing up your favorite social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and relying on people you know the way to go?
Now before you queue up the search engine to answer that question, Google and the KellerFay Group have you beat in their just released study that shows search, by far, is more influential in word of mouth conversations in not only providing credibility but also helping to cement a purchase. Obviously, a study conducted by Google that ends up revealing their search engine to be #1 in influencing habits of its users should be, perhaps, viewed with some skepticism. However, with Google becoming the first company to have unique page views exceed one billion per month, their ability to affect purchasing habits and lend credence to wandering thoughts is self-evident.
Having said that, the study tells us that “word of mouth impressions generated by search are 25% more credible and 17% more likely to lead to purchase” than those who resort to social media websites. Also of note, although hardly surprising, is that a majority (82%) of WoM conversations involving brands take place in face-to-face settings. In fact, according to the study, only a mere 5% of the population uses the Internet to converse about brands. But, once the conversation has been initiated, the spark lit so to speak; invariably people turn to the Internet by a wide margin to gain a firmer grip on relevant information.
When it comes to brands, the Internet plays its largest role by providing extra information. Think of Consumer Reports. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘resolving arguments/discussion’ is a function of the Internet utilized the least, based on the study. Does this sound right to you? How are you leveraging all the different media avenues available so you can have the necessary facts to make the best decision possible? For instance, if you and a friend are talking about buying a new TV, how does your conversation proceed and how often is search used versus social media sites to gauge reliability and worthiness?
Unsurprisingly, owners of smart phones are much more likely to utilize the Internet both before and after a conversation than their counterparts. For example, smart phone owners are 50% more likely than non-smart phone owners to talk about something they’ve either seen or heard prior to the conversation. Furthermore, an additional 11% of smart phone owners actually access their phones during a conversation when talking about brands. And with the advent of QR codes, you can be sure that number will only continue to rise, as people will have a direct pipeline to vital and useful information.
So while social media is all the rage nowadays, this study gives us a clearer picture of how the Internet is being used in regards to actual conversations affecting purchases and brand credibility. Indeed, I’m sure most of us have grown quite adept at using search to conduct our due diligence and/or purchase whatever has piqued our interest. Subsequently, if said product or brand has proven to be particularly useful or interesting, we then resort to social media to alert our friends and family of a great deal.
In the end, though, search and social media shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as competing against each other. On the contrary, like a giant feedback look, both search and social media complement each other very well, constantly reinforcing and amplifying both the good and bad of particular brands. One could say they’ve developed somewhat of a symbiotic relationship. Just don’t tell that to Google or Facebook!