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Which is More Powerful? Word of Mouth or Social Media?

How Personal and Public Opinions Shape Businesses

When a person’s satisfied or unhappy about a business, they tell their family, friends, and acquaintances about their experience. In fact, negative opinion is voiced more often than positive experiences. People are compelled to warn others about their unfortunate encounters with a certain establishment or service. This makes it imperative for businesses to strive for customer satisfaction, not just to serve their clients but also to protect their reputation.

Protecting the reputation of a commercial organization has become harder, however. People are more apt to voice their dislike when they connect to the Internet. They post their reviews on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as on review sites like Yelp. Word of mouth gained a new form in social media. It can gain a life of its own as people can share it on a number of platform–email, forums, social networks, and more. But, which is more powerful? Word of mouth or social media?

It can be claimed that word mouth dominates, as social media is only a subset of word of mouth. It’s just another medium where people can praise or vent about a person, business, activity or issue. Chris Laird, CEO of Tremor, said everyone can have 10 times as many offline conversations about brands than they do online. Personal views, especially from those with considerable social influence, can sway general public opinion. Two people talking about dinner can dig up memories of a bad experience in a particular restaurant. In turn, B tells C, D and E about A’s experience. A’s opinion indirectly affect other people’s perception about the restaurant.

Let’s ground this to a more concrete example. Chick-Fil-A got involved in a controversy last July when Dan Cathy, the COO, revealed his anti-same-sex marriage stance. This earned censure from various gay and lesbian organizations and LGBT supporters. Chick-Fil-A’s ratings plummeted and reached an all-time low. The Quick Service Restaurant (QRS) Sector conducted a study and found that Chick-Fil-A’s score dropped to 39, which is below the average QSR score. The fast food restaurant’s stand set off disapproval from many of its regular patrons, which affected its ratings in return.

Let’s turn the tables and suppose that social media is bigger than word-of-mouth marketing. Social media can be accessed by almost anyone around the world. Once a review about a certain business is posted on a website, people looking for assessments of that same establishment will find the review. People will likely believe what they find out and if the review’s bad, then they won’t call the business anymore. Word of mouth can only reach a certain number of people before it dies out. Social media, however, keeps records of all posts, which can be retrieved by search engines if the profile allows public viewing. Anyone, then, can read the review and be influenced whether to go there or not.

When people participate in social media, they become connected to a large network of users. It’s like there’s a tie that attaches each one of us to other people with whom we exchange ideas and share our likes and dislikes. We share whatever we post to a group of people. If they like what you’ve shared, there’s a chance they’ll spread it. This will result to a series of shared content that circulates from one network to another. Social media, indeed, mimic how word of mouth works, only in a greater extent. With word of mouth you can reach 100 people. Social media, however, can increase the reach to a thousand more.



Social Media Today

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