Word-of-Mouth Marketing and Social Media

As a career marketer, I love when everyday life surprises me with little Marketing 101 lessons that reinforce the basics. Such an occasion arose last week over something as mundane as ordering lunch.

At JP Enterprises, our official workday runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour for lunch. Our office is located in a business park in Washington County, south of Pittsburgh, a semi-suburban/semi-rural setting. We have farms with cows and horses nearby. We have deer browsing next to our parking lot. What we don’t have is a lot of restaurants close enough to drive to, eat at, and return from within 60 minutes.  Consequently, many JP employees brown bag it every day.

Those of us who prefer not to pack lunch have formed a lunch group that orders food in every day, and we each take a day of the week to organize lunch for the rest of the group. I’m “Queen of Lunch” on Wednesdays. Last week I chose the Sharp Edge Brasserie, because I had a craving for their buffalo bleu bites, which are little chunks of boneless, white-meat chicken, lightly breaded, fried, and coated in a delectable mixture of buffalo sauce and bleu cheese. 

This restaurant has an extensive menu. Typically when we order from there, only two or three people order the buffalo bleu bites — the coworker who originally recommended them to me, maybe one other person, and me. Everyone else gets sandwiches, burgers, or salads, all of which must be good, because I’ve never heard any complaints. On this occasion, however, when I sent out the email announcing the details of lunch, on a whim, I added a line that said, “I highly recommend the buffalo bleu bites!”


When I grabbed the lunch sign-up sheet from the front office so I could call in the order, I was shocked to see that of the nine people who had signed up for lunch, six had chosen buffalo bleu bites. A seventh ordered plain buffalo bites, because he doesn’t care for bleu cheese. Only two people ordered menu items entirely unrelated to my recommendation.

lunch order recommendation

This means that 78% of the people participating in lunch that day ordered bites, when typically only 33% would have. Bites orders increased by 133%, based on the recommendation of someone lunch participants knew and (presumably) whose opinion they trusted.

We all know something about the power of word-of-mouth recommendations. If your best friend tells you she saw a new movie last weekend and it was so boring that she fell asleep in the middle of it, you’re probably not going to bother to pay box-office prices to see that particular flick in the theater. If you’re looking for a contractor to renovate your kitchen, and your neighbor tells you that the guy who did his was fantastic, you’ll probably at least call that guy for a quote.

Word-of-mouth has always had an impact on a company’s fortunes, for good or for ill, but that impact used to be limited to one’s immediate, physical circle of influence — the people you interact with on a regular basis, and the people those people interact with and may spread the word to. The Internet and social media have expanded our circles of influence to encompass many, many more people than those we see or talk with in person on a daily or weekly basis.

What that means is that now, more than ever, you need to focus on delivering the best possible product or service, and the best possible customer experience, so that your customers will recommend you to others within their expanded circles of influence via social media.  

These recommendations might be solicited, as when someone in need of the product or service asks their social media network for advice on a specific brand or provider. (“Anyone know a good plumber?”) Or they might be unsolicited recommendations, as when the customer is so happy with the product or service that he or she wants to share the good news with the world, which is about the highest endorsement you can hope to achieve.

I’ve given numerous solicited recommendations on social media, but very few unsolicited ones. I’m not the sort of person who documents every moment of my life on Facebook, so a product has to make me really, really happy before I jump out there and tell the world without being asked.  And I’m not talking about clicking a “Like” button, which is a low investment of time and effort, but about actually writing a recommendation post, however brief.

The only instance I can recall is after I tried Fels-Naptha® soap for getting ground-in dirt stains out of white baseball pants, based on an in-person word-of-mouth recommendation from a fellow baseball mother. I was thrilled to finally find something that really worked after trying every laundry product known to man, and I wished I had discovered it years earlier, which inspired me to share the tip with every other baseball mom I knew via Facebook.

In the business world, I was similarly elated by figuring out ways to use Adobe® Acrobat® software to save a great deal of time and wrote two blog posts about that, Tips for Eliminating Tedious, Mundane Tasks in Adobe Acrobat and Marketing Productivity: Re-Use Your Content without Reinventing the Wheel. I believe those were shared on LinkedIn, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone straight to LinkedIn and created a unique recommendation post for any product or service.

What about you? Have you ever offered an unsolicited product or service recommendation on social media? Why or why not?

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