Marketing is a tricky game. Walking the line between selling your product and maintaining the trust and respect of your audience can be tough. That's part of why word of mouth and viral marketing are so attractive. When it comes to common forms of online marketing, it's interesting to note that for the money companies being poured into paid search advertising may be better spent elsewhere. A new survey released by Nielsen shows that time and effort may be better spent trying to boost the number of consumer reviews posted about your products and services.

The data, part of the Nielsen Global Survey, was compiled by surveying 26,486 internet users in 47 different countries. Participants were asked about the level of trust they place on a variety of different forms of marketing. Options varied from traditional methods like tv/radio commercials and newspapers to more modern options like paid search ads, mobile phone text ads and online consumer reviews.

The top thirteen results are summarized in the chart below.

Interestingly, only banner ads (26%) and mobile ads (18%) ranked lower than paid search ads (34%) in terms of trust-factor. Whether that's as a result of the technology being new or of an actual problem in terms of consumer perception, it may give small business owners reason to stop and think.

Paid search campaigns can be expensive, especially if you are playing in a competitive industry. Interestingly, consumer generated reviews were trusted at nearly twice the rate (61%) as paid search ads. It should come as a surprise to no one that good old fashioned "recommendations from consumers" topped the survey list at just under 80%.

Now, I'm not saying you should ditch your paid search advertising campaign today. If you're pulling a positive ROI on those ads, you'd be crazy to drop them. However, I do think this data lends credence to the idea that more small businesses should be setting aside part of their marketing budget to work on word of mouth/viral campaigns and to find creative ways to encourage happy customers to post reviews on relevant sites.

Stop and think about how you currently promote word of mouth and consumer review marketing tactics. Do you encourage your happy customers to tell their friends about your product or services? Do you offer a send to friend feature? Better yet, do you offer your customer (and their friend) a discount on future purchases for spreading the word?

What about reviews? Have you stopped by sites like Yahoo Local, Google Maps and Yelp to find out what consumers are saying about your company? Do you have any processes in place to encourage happy customers to visit these sites and submit reviews?

If not, I'd highly suggest building some of your holiday retail promotions around the idea of passing word on to a friend or encouraging those consumer reviews.

Hat tip to Church of the Customer

October 5, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Consumers Consider Online Reviews Far More Trustworthy Than Search Ads