Sunday, December 11, 2005

How Much We Do Word-of-Mouth Marketing As Part of Our Everyday Interactions

What percentage of all our conversations include talk about an organization, brand, product, or service?

Based on my research with college students (18-29 years of age) the answer is about 17.5%, on average. This is a little higher than the 13.5% I found in an earlier study (see "March 2005" results in the chart and below for details).

I arrived at these numbers by asking people to record all of the interactions they have over a 7-day period with people of different relationship types (strangers, acquaintances, friends, best friends, family members, romantic partners or spouses, or co-workers) as well as those interactions that include brand-related talk (what I call a "word-of-mouth episode"). The percentage of all interactions that include a WOM episode is called the E/I ratio. Learn more about the Total Interactions & WOM Episodes Woksheet and definitions of interactions and episodes (link opens PDF file in new window).

The chart above shows the results. "E" stands for WOM episodes, "I" for interactions, "E/I" for Episode to Interaction ratio (see NOTE 1 below), and "N" for the number of participants in each sub-set.

It's not clear why the "March 2005" numbers (collected during weeks in February and March 2005) are lower than the other months, which may suggest seasonal variation. The winter months may explain lower numbers of interactions but it wouldn't explain why there would be a lower percentage of those interactions involving a WOM episode. Another explanation could be the small sample sizes. Although outliers have been removed, a few individuals in each sub-set could skew the results.

If you want to see how your numbers stack up, I encourage you to count the number of your interactions and WOM episodes. Start with a day and see how it goes. If you want to try for the full 7-days feel free to download the TIWOME worksheet. To learn how these numbers compare to those people affiliated with a buzz marketing agency, see my Management Communication Quarterly article (link opens to my download page where you can access a pre-press version of the article).

Thank you to all of the students who have agreed to participate in this research!

NOTE 1: The E/I ratio is the average of all the relationship type x day of week calculations rather than simply the result of dividing the total Es by the total Is. Taking the average of the reltype x dayweek calculations is a more precise metric because it takes into account the variations across different relationship types and days of the week. See my Management Communication Quarterly article for more details.

NOTE 2: Please note that "WOM" is defined here as talk about an organization, brand, product, or service, but WOM can also be understood as a medium of informal, peer-to-peer communication which could be about a range of topics. For example, gossip about other people or work could also be considered WOM, but is not counted in the "WOM Episode" numbers (interactions involving gossip would be included as part of total interactions however).


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