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Social Media Marketing and Word-of-Mouth Marketing Are Now the Same

Reading several articles all based on the same survey made me realize that many people still don't get it... they don't get the fact that Social Media Marketing and Word of Mouth Marketing are now the same thing!

The first place I saw it was on the blogs section of the Wall Street Journal website... To Heck With Twitter, Business Owners Say. Then I saw it on Small Biz Ambivalent About Social Media. Then just yesterday I read this headline on Social Media Gets Mixed Reviews From Small Business.

The survey was commissioned by the Hiscox Insurance Company who worked with market-research firm Opinium Research LLP to query 304 U.S. small business owners this past May. Overall, 47% of small business owners and managers surveyed said they don't use social media for business purposes at all. The survey also broke down each of the big players in the social media world, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and the numbers for each of these individually are low with Twitter bringing up the rear as only 4% of respondents said they use Twitter.

And good luck trying to decipher what kinds of businesses these were that were surveyed, were they B2B, B2C, what industries were they in, etc... cause I couldn't find that information. You can click on any of the above links for the gory not-very-detailed details if you so choose but... what caught my eye and raised my proverbial ire was the fact that 50% of the respondents cited Word of Mouth Marketing as the one channel they couldn't do without compared to the 12% vote social media received.

Of the three articles I referenced earlier, only one, the piece even made a reference to the connection between Social Media Marketing and Word of Mouth Marketing: "... Notwithstanding the obvious potential for overlap between social media and WOM..."

Potential overlap?

No, there is no potential overlap, there is a real and distinct overlap!

I'm reading these articles and wondering aloud, 'doesn't anyone get this?' There was one commenter on the WSJ piece who got it for sure...

"...What these business owners... are missing is the fact that Social Media is set to become THE way to spread word of mouth. Facebook is becoming the sewing circle of the future, and if you can get a group of people buzzing to each other online about your business, you can bring in more customers."

I will disagree with this POV only in the fact that Social Media is not set to become the way to spread word of mouth... it already is!

C'mon people, business owners, marketers, advertisers, etc... where do you think people are "talking" these days?

I will surely not trot out the latest Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn stats nor remind you of the accelerated growth of Google Plus... by now you know and have seen all the statistics.

Sure, are neighbors talking to neighbors as they mow their lawns about the new laundry detergent one just used or the great restaurant the other one went to the night before? Of course, that part will never change.

But what HAS changed is now those same neighbors, after mowing their lawns, are going back into their homes and going on their computers or back into their garages and whipping out their smartphones and telling all their friends... their ONLINE friends all about the new laundry detergent and great restaurant.

Their PCs, smartphones and tablets are now extensions of their mouths... in a matter of speaking.

They are now using their keyboards in addition to their mouths to spread the word.

Why does that seem so obvious to me yet seems lost on so many others?

Sources:,,,, Google Images, Social Media Marketing And Word Of Mouth Marketing Are Now The Same

Join The Conversation

  • Aug 3 Posted 5 years ago Spike Jones (not verified)

    I see what you’re trying to do here, but please keep in mind that word of mouth is a practice, whereas social media is just a tool.


    In other words, WOM is SMs daddy.

    Or SM is WOM's bitch.


    Or even think of it this way: social media is a part of word of mouth.


    Or just read what Rod said.


    You get the idea.

  • Aug 3 Posted 5 years ago Ralph B (not verified)

    I see Social Media as the Word of Mouth to people that you do not see in person.  There are things that I will post on social media sites and talk about with those I see on a regular basis.  This is the same as the article describes.  But there are things I talk about but will never post on a social media site.  This is were the differences are.  If you think about what you talk about and what you post on social media sites, you will see a differnece.  Most people have to think about this and pay attention to their interactions in person and on-line to see the difference.

    As some of the comments above have mentioned, there is a difference between WOM and SM and most people do not understand it and/or try not understand it.  They try to lump too many things into one category.  

    We all have this natural desire to share certain things and keep other things private and only share with some people.  One thing that I have found is that the teenagers of today share a lot more on-line than the 30+ and the 30+ share more than the 50+.   Eventually everyone will be sharing almost everything on-line and there will be no privacy.  Only at that point will SM and WOM be truely the same.

  • Aug 1 Posted 5 years ago Rod Brooks (not verified)


    I agree with your points.  Well said. It's a blend and smart marketers will be paying close attention to the WOM they generate both online and offline.


  • Aug 1 Posted 5 years ago André Brömmel (not verified)

    Hello Jason,

    I'll keep you in mind. Keep your fingers crossed that the psychologists are as motivated than I am.

  • Jul 31 Posted 5 years ago Rod Brooks (not verified)

    Exactly - Anonymous "gets it"

  • Jul 31 Posted 5 years ago Rod Brooks (not verified)


    You seem to have prompted a great bit of dialog in the Twittersphere with your post this morning.  I certainly agree that it's critical that businesses of all sizes figure out that they are not going to be relevant much longer if they aren't involved in the medium of choice by consumers of today and tomorrow.  On that we agree.  No doubt about it.

    As for SM and WOM being the same, well that's probably a mater of degree or at least dependent on the definitions being used.

    Here's my position and the position of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) for which I am the Board President.

    Social Media is a rapidly growing and highly visible component of word of mouth marketing. That being said, I like to remind savvy marketers that approximately 90% of all word of mouth still occurs offline. So, while I can agree that Social Media is a subset of WOM, it would be very difficult for me to call them "the same". Word of Mouth is far bigger that social media.

    Now, after slitting hairs, let's do what we can to get those nay sayers on board, before they miss the boat entirely!

    Rod Brooks

    WOMMA, Board President

    PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, VP & CMO



  • Jul 29 Posted 5 years ago Chris Jordan (not verified)

    I get it, but employers don't.  While marketers are doing a great job of advertising using this media, the problem of using it to distrbute information is that employers don't want to see a Facebook page pulled up on your web browser favorites.  FB is loaded with mind-numbing, time-consuming, anti-productive communications and games.  So if I intersperse something that might be important to my focus audience it gets lost as so much background chatter.  

    Having recently ventured into the Twitter arena, a quick survey of my database of 3000+ contacts revealed only 29 Twitter users, of which 27 were peers, and only 2 were my target customers.  I'm not so naive to believe that less than 1% of my contacts were using Twitter, but the simple fact is that everyone is leading dual lives with seperate email accounts, and keeping business and personal apart so that some complaint they voice about their boss doesn't come back to haunt them, or maybe if they friend their boss, the boss would see that they're making status updates when they're supposed to be working on another project.

    Maybe Google+ and it's circles will correct this, because it does have the potential for rapid to market information.


  • Jul 29 Posted 5 years ago hcorcoran (not verified)

    ARe people going online and talking about the latest washing detergent?

    I agree that "sexy" brands with sexy campaigns are getting talked about, but not every product is ripe for creating online buzz.



  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Shelley Daun (not verified)

    Wow, even in the above comments, come people still don't get it. Word of mouth doesn't have to be as formal as talking face-to-face with a friend. I always pay attention to the links my friends post on Facebook, and it has become my new source for word-of-mouth since I keep in touch with most of my friends via Facebook. And I often offer or take word-of-mouth advice from business aquaintances via Twitter. Indeed, on both Facebook and Twitter I often ask others for their opinions on products and services, and I am far from being the only true. 

    If you don't use Facebook and/or Twitter ever or very often how could it possibly work this way for you. But the whole point is, that it can. Which is why I shake my head and mutter under my breath whenever I hear someone say, "oh we are just a small business, Facebook or Twitter can't help us." Silly people. 

  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Don Snyder

    I don't think they are exactly the same --- but they rhyme.

    I believe traditional WOMM can be amplified by Social Media, but I don't believe it fully replaces it.

  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Eric Coenders (not verified)

    Agree with Jason to a certain amount. Did a little 'research' just two months ago, among approx. 20 of my clients and a dozen or so friends. Of these, only 2 actively use Twitter and 3 follow tweets (sometimes), and 9 use FaceBook. When asked, none of them has had any business lead so far from Twitter or FaceBook, not even indirectly (funny enough, most of them ask where new clients come from, something I encourage them to do).

    Any seemingly correlation to word of mouth doesn't add up here. And none of them values social media as high as 'real' word of mouth, simply because vis-à-vis word of mouth is all about sharing your personal experience with a company... with a friend or associate. In my - and their - opinion that's the main difference with social media: anyone can tell something about someone else, but this is different from a friend directing you to, let's say, a trustworthy used car dealer. Why? If I would buy a car from that dealer and it sucks, there is the risk I would - partly - blame my friend for it. Since there is a good deal of trust between friends and good business partners, chances are they will only recommend someone if they're pretty sure their opinion is sound, preferably by previous experience.

    So, to quote Jason: in more than one industry, social media don't mean anything - yet.

    BTW 1: I'm mid-fourties and very well educated, and so are most of my associates and friends. We keep track of social media, sometimes even use them, but are quite sceptical when it comes to real use in business.

    BTW 2: Could there be, or will there be, a change in attitude once the younger social media users - anyone now under 35 or 30 - will become the decision makers, of course outside our 'niche' ?

    BTW 3: Back in the early days of the Web, the buzz was out: get a site and get rich. Well, not exactly. I get the same feeling with social media. And since the whole web business turned out just fine, so will social media... eventually.

  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Dalia B (not verified) Its interesting you have posted this article! I was at an interview around a week ago, and was asked to describe social media, " it's the online word if mouth" thats how I described it. This is the new way if communication between people/ friends now And thus it's the new way of sharing information about products , places, experiences.. Etc. The only difference is that earlier a person would speak to one or two friends to deliver a message Now you can simply post one comment on twitter/ facebook etc. And the whole world would know about it. It's a quicker and much more effective "word of mouth marketing" :) Thanks Dalia
  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Anonymous (not verified)

    Sorry, but I have conversations over dinner and at social events. I've been doing online marketing for a long time, and social media is important in the overall marketing mix, but if someone recommends a restaurant or a place to have my shoes fixed, it's often in person. That's what they mean by word of mouth. Granted word of mouth can happen online through social media outlets, but there are other places word of mouth can happen, and that's probably the point of the research's differentiation. 

  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Albert Thompson (not verified)

    The best explanation was one noted by Buzzmetrics years ago.  Buzz (Marketing) is what you try to generate from a creative idea or great campaign.  What you hope is that it goes Viral and gets passed along over and over.  But Word of Mouth adoption is what you aspire to obtain.  All things buzz worthy, don't go viral.  All things viral don't get spoken about.  So what then is social media?  The platform or framework that facilitates all the above.  And yes, word of mouth adoption happened long before social media or even the Internet for that matter.

  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Jason Emanis (not verified)

    Andre', interested in the article when you finish, In our industry, Facebook doesn't mean anything. Twitter is only where the media resides. However, it is our niche, industry eGroups, LinkedIn groups, association online groups that are plausible for driving word of mouth.

  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago Larry Snow (not verified)

    Great article Steve! Social media is word of mouth marketing on steriods is what I tell my clients. Social media has become an intricate fabric woven into our lives. I am amazed at how reluctant small businesses are at establishing a presence and a business strategy on social media networks.  

    On a side note, read your bio, I too would still be stocking shelves if it weren't for my Rock.  Cheers!

  • Jul 28 Posted 5 years ago André Brömmel (not verified)

    An interesting point of view. Since 1995 I study word of mouth marketing very intensivly. I've read many books, bloggs and articles about that theme. And I found out something which I try to comprimise in a whitepaper. It's about the one and only reason why people recommend something to other people. So you've to wait a little bit until this whitepaper is finished. Nevertheless due to this knowledge I can agree in general to your point of view even you didn't mentioned why people do this. Interesting: no author ever mentioned the real reason. Everybody is talking about the extraordinary positive service which makes the customer this happy that he has to tell it to other people. If you want to read this, buy any book concerning to word of mouth marketing. If you want to know what it is REALLY all about, wait for my whitepaper which hopefully will be finished within the next 3 month (in cooperation with two psychologists to proof this).

  • Jul 27 Posted 5 years ago GingerTT

    Great article! I was just saying the same on a LinkedIn group today! It is absolutely word of mouth.... and the best reference for new biz is WOM.


    Well done! Well written!




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