Internet Still Lags as Word of Mouth ‘Engine’

The Internet, email and instant messaging are great ways to jumpstart word of mouth “conversations.” But just four percent of word of mouth conversations (which are just short of a “lead”) are ultimately passed off via email, and three percent are passed off via Instant Messaging. Another one percent start the discussion via chat rooms and blogs. By contrast, an overwhelming 70 percent of conversations occur Face to Face and 19 percent occur over the phone. (Face to Face is “local,” right?)

The research comes from The Keller Fay Group, a unit comprised of veterans from Roper polling and other firms. Keller Fay surveys 100 consumers a day, seven days a week – 36,000 consumers every year — on the types of communication they use for word of mouth communications. The age range is 13 to 69.

Keller Fay’s Jon Berry says that the Internet is a “really important source of what people refer to” when they are talking about buying something – a good precursor activity. “It is right up there with television,” he said. Actually, it is a little short of TV: Eleven percent to nine percent.

While Internet channels don’t really compete with more traditional channels for the actual decision making, online review sites and other types of consumer sites are beginning to register fairly significantly, he added. Even “Gen Y” consumers (i.e. born after 1983) use other means of communication more prominently than the Internet. But for them, the ranking is much closer. While the majority of Gen Y word of mouth conversations are face to face (63 percent) or over the phone (17 percent), they are using text messages and IMs at triple the volume of the total market.

Btw: anybody know of a good heat/ac man in north San Diego?

2 thoughts on “Internet Still Lags as Word of Mouth ‘Engine’

  1. Peter, I think that there’s also the factor of online communications systems such as Skype, which combine messaging with audio communications. Vocal and person-to-person communications are still key, but these can now be combined with online content relatively easily.

    The other factor is the power of implied endorsements from content. Personal communications are certainly the most powerful form of endorsement, but emails and messaging, a form of publishing, provide a different kind of endorsement than verbal word of mouth. An online message is something that can be repurposed easily for audiences large or small. So it’s a different kind of power.

    I also wonder about the sample. Obviously it’s a very wide base of data, which implies that it reflects the relatively slow penetration of broadband Internet capabilities in the U.S. Certainly amongst the broad range of consumers the leading role of TV makes sense, but if you limited the sample to people who had access to both the Internet and TV, I wonder what the numbers would look like.

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