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Mila D'Antonio | May 11, 2011

Colloquy Reveals a Decline in Word of Mouth

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Even though consumers today use a barrage of social technologies, including SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter, ratings and reviews sites, and blogs, a new study shows that they are less inclined to share word-of-mouth (WOM) experiences than they were three years ago.

Of 3,295 U.S. consumers surveyed in the study by Colloquy, only 58 percent said that they often have conversations with family, friends, and coworkers about products and services they've used. That's a 20 percent decline from 2008 when consumers were posed the same question.

Additionally, 57 percent of respondents in the latest survey said they often recommend products and services to others, compared to 75 percent in 2008, a 24 percent decline.

Despite the ease that social sites and handheld devices have created in helping consumer spread WOM, there's a reduction in WOM activity. Colloquy attributes the fall-off to the economic downturn, saying that 74 percent of respondents who see their own financial outlook brightening said they have conversations about products and services, versus 55 percent for those who see their financial outlook worsening.

"Consumers on shrinking budgets don't seem to be in the mood to talk about the hottest new restaurant, the brightest plasma screen, or the best airline. Or, if they are in the mood to talk, they may be sensitive to the possibility that others in more dire straits are in no mood to listen," said Colloquy Partner Jim Sullivan in a press release.

Colloquy offers some tactics for helping companies engage with consumers and to grow word of mouth. They are:

1) Ensure customers not only have an opportunity for a dialogue (not a monologue) with the brand, but with each other. Get the conversations started by asking for opinions and insights, and recognize contributions.

2) Involve customers in WOM programs by forming online social sharing communities, panels and co-development platforms.

3) Make sure content is relevant, fresh, and rewarding. Start by transforming your marketing mindset from "incentive" to "service."

These tips might not provide a cure-all to what's ailing WOM, but they do offer ideas and opportunities to involve customers more frequently in a conversation about your brand.

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