The current generation doesn’t know what life without social media is like. Most kids aged 8 through 12 have their own cell phone: between fifth grade and middle school, the percentage shoots up from 39% to 84%. Younger Generation-Y-ers only distantly remember the days when the phone played a funny sound and went out of service when you used the internet. So I suppose it’s safe to say that the younger generation, all the way up to recent graduates of college, don’t know what word of mouth is separate from social media.
Yet, has social media taken over word of mouth?
Is Social Media the New Word of Mouth?
The effectiveness of word of mouth lies in the fact that people trust their friends’ opinions above anyone else’s. It’s personalized feedback from people that know you and want the best for you (ostensibly) – what could be better?
Social media took these personal connections and attempted to put them on the internet. Now, I say attempted because these relationships aren’t just between friends anymore: any brand, any organization can have a Facebook or a Twitter, and people follow and friend people who are, well, not their friends. People now spread the word mainly using technology, but research from Stanford University shows that this hyper-connectivity actually results in fewer and lower-quality interpersonal interactions.
What does this mean? For one, it means that people are less likely to bend toward their friends’ opinions or even to ask them, as the deep bonds that characterize such a friendship are weakened. Additionally, more time online equals fewer good, reliable friends, so there are fewer people to ask. They will also look to more online sources, such as internet reviewers and commenters; this study shows that 72% of consumers trust these reviews as much as their friends.
Yet, social media hasn’t completely obliterated the power of word of mouth. Recommendations between friends still ranks the number one influencer. However, social media has at least, very subtly and for most people likely subconsciously, reduced its power.
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