Word of mouth still triumphs as most trusted way to advertise

Positive word of mouth is consistently viewed as more credible than other advertising methods such as newspaper advertising, online searches and mail/email marketing.

In 2015, Neilson conducted a Global Survey of trust in advertising, surveying more than 30,000 people in 60 countries (including Australia). It showed that Asia-Pacific respondents were most willing to trust recommendations from friends and family (85%) and opinions posted online (70%)i. Globally, people were most likely to trust and take actions on recommendations from people they know, branded websites, and consumer opinions posted online, respectively.i

According to the survey, 56% of consumers trust email messages they'd signed up for, and 47% trusted advertisements generated by search engine results.i Trust in online video advertisements (48%) and advertisements on social networks (48%) has remained steady over the last few years.i

US company Alignable recently completed a survey of 7,500 small business owners in North America, and found a similar result – 85% of small businesses named word of mouth as the best way to acquire local customers, while less than 10% named paid advertising.ii

'Super influencers'

Word of mouth is vitally important, but it’s only as effective as the network of those who spread it. To superpower their word of mouth marketing, many companies are making use of influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is where a brand turns to individuals with a large following in a certain area to spread the word about their product or service. Research from MuseFind found that 92% of customers trust influencers more than advertising or traditional endorsement.iii More than 86% of marketers used influencer marketing in 2017, and of those 92% found it to be an effective strategy.iv

For example, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service worked with Social Soup, an agency that found 750 30-54 year olds who were "well connected, online and offline and had not donated in the past five years"v. They were family and community-minded, worked or lived near a blood donation centre and had a high-level of persuasion in their social and work environmentsv. They shared their experience online via Facebook and Twitter, explaining why they made the decision to donate, and created 300 online reviews, with most giving a 4.4 star rating out of 5v.

How to create positive word of mouth

Businesses looking to create positive word of mouth should aim to provide good customer service, and create a great end to end customer experiencevi They should also aim to engage customers on social media, and showcase testimonials and reviews.vi

For businesses that operate locally, nothing can beat contributing to the local community, and getting involved in local events.vi You could also consider giving lessons or seminars to meet prospective customers in your area.

It is important to monitor your reputation, both locally and online, and act quickly on any complaints that arise. Unfortunately, if things go wrong, consumers are more likely to talk about your business, irrespective of the quality of your product, and bad news spreads fast.vii

i Nielsen, 2015, Global Trust in Advertising,

ii Entrepreneur, 2017, The Majority of Small-Business Owners Rely on Word of Mouth Referrals, viewed 28 February 2018

iii Deborah Weinswidg, 2016, Influencers are the new brands, Forbes, viewed 28 February 2018

ivMarketing Dive, 2017, Study: 39% of marketers will increase influencer marketing budgets in viewed 28 February 2018,

vGreen, R. 2013, 'Australian Red Cross Blood Service case study: How an influential word of mouth campaign increased blood donations via Social Soup', Campaign Brief, 13 May, viewed 28 February 2018

viThe Balance, 2017, 10 Ways to Get Word of Mouth for Your Business, viewed 28 February 2018

viiCPM - Aus, 2017, The State of Customer Service in Australia, viewed 27 February 2017,