What is a “brand advocate” anyway? ClickZ defines them as “consumers who spread opinions via word of mouth, as well as over social networks, instant messaging, chat, photo sites and blogging.” According to a new research report released today by Yahoo! and comScore Networks, not only is social networking’s influence on marketing growing, but particularly vocal individuals are having more of an effect than ever.
The report shows that these brand advocates have at least at least a two-to-one rate of convincing an actual friend or family member to buy the same exact product or brand they support. “The Internet has irrevocably changed word-of-mouth. There’s no turning back. Social media is woven into advocates daily lives as well as their purchase processes,” said Michele Madansky, VP of corporate sales and research for Yahoo.
I can certainly agree with this. For those of us who spend a good portion of our time online, it is only natural that we will recommend products and services to others in one of the forms mentioned beforehand. I myself like to blog and have not only been an advocate for products and services but have been an adversary as well.
The ClickZ article goes on to report that these brand advocates conduct and average of 48 searches per month, compared to 39 searches for non advocates and 76 percent of advocates use search engines to research products prior to making purchases, compared to 64 percent of non-advocates. Researchers believe that as these advocates are investing more time and effort into their own decision making process, they are more compelled to talk about their purchases with others.
Utilizing “search as discovery beyond just direct response marketing” can be key in reaching such advocates, said James Lamberti, VP search solutions for ComScore Networks, as “billions of advertising dollars are being moved by consumer advocates.”
He also said that advertising agencies that tend to silo search away from the rest of interactive advertising efforts are “missing a very, very critical avenue to get to advocates.”
As business owners, this study should remind us of two things. First of all, good search visibility is a must in this Internet age. Even if a company is focusing the majority of their marketing efforts in traditional media (television, radio, print, etc.), they need to understand that many consumers will utilize search in order to learn more about their products and services. Secondly, good customer service is crucial if you want people to speak positive things about you. In my opinion, there is no better advertising than word of mouth. On the other hand, there is nothing more negative than when people are not speaking well of your company. When it is done online, it becomes a very difficult obstacle to overcome.