Image for Clues to How and Why Chatter Can Matter

It’s no secret we seek advice from friends, family and people we trust before purchasing products, making decisions and casting votes. Yet, how word-of-mouth actually works still remains a mystery to most marketers, decision-makers and political operatives.

Jay Baer has a new book that seeks to roll back the curtains on how people rely on word-of-mouth and how marketers can create consumers through “chatter that matters.”

Baer endeared himself to marketers with his earlier work called Youtility – the concept that marketing should focus on help, not hype. Baer contended providing useful information is the best route to attracting consumers.

In his new book, Talk Triggers, Baer and co-author Daniel Lemin attempt to provide the same level of illumination when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing. In a companion piece, Chatter Matters, Baer and Lemin analyze research data gathered by Audience Audit to assess word-of-mouth trends and preferences by different age groups and categories of purchasers. They also studied whether online or offline word-of-mouth has the most impact and the effectiveness of celebrity endorsers.

Word-of-mouth is, of course, the oldest form of recommendation and customer acquisition, and it may be more important than ever,” Baer and Lemin say. “When receiving a verbal recommendation from a friend or family member, 83% of Americans are more interested in purchasing the discussed product or service.” 

While word-of-mouth is a preferred form of advice for nearly everyone, men and women, as well as people of different ages, rely on it at varying degrees. Data in Chatter Matters indicates women rely on offline word-of-mouth from friends and family 22% more often than men. White Americans are more inclined to try a product recommended by a friend or family members than non-white Americans.

The report indicates we may give as much advice as we receive, noting “55% of Americans make product or service recommendations to other once per month.” More than 80% say they have offered recommendations.

Younger Americans are more inclined to share “overheard word-of-mouth,” according to the report. Gen Z are the most likely to share (48%) compared to Baby Boomers (38%).

Chatter Matters touches on the trust level of celebrity endorsements. Research found 25 percent of respondents don’t trust any celebrity endorsement. Of the celebrities mentioned in the survey, the highest-ranking person was Oprah Winfrey at 4%. Donald Trump weighed in at 2.8% and Warren Buffet at 2%. No one else broke the 2% threshold.

Personal recommendations appear to matter more than ones on social media. “Americans value word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family 41% more than social media recommendations.” However, a failed relationship can sour the “trust quotient” – “66% of Americans trust an anonymous, online review more than a recommendation from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.”

Friends with personal experience count for more than advertising when it comes to major purchases. For example, the report says, “When planning a wedding, word-of-mouth from friends is 331% more likely to be relied on than advertising.”

Choosing a restaurant is different. Overall, 50% of Americans rely on recommendations from friends and family when choosing a restaurant. However, Gen Z and Millennials are 99% more likely to rely on social and online reviews than are their Gen X and Boomer counterparts.

Word-of-mouth is much more dominant force than advertising in influencing how people vote, especially for Millennials. Baby Boomers pay more attention to news coverage to inform their voting.

Chatter Matters is what you might call the appetizer to the full meal in Talk Triggers, which offers advice and examples of how to use word-of-mouth marketing effectively.