As usual eMarketer had a couple of great articles yesterday. The one that really peaked my interest was the one titled Harnessing Active Brand Advocates. The article is about a survey conducted by Synovate for word-of-mouth ad network PostRelease.
The largest percentage of respondents, nearly 54%, reported "Helping a friend or family member make a decision about a product purchase". I don't find this surprising, as I've have always believed that people tend to perform word-of-mouth activities towards people they care about.
You share with friends and family more than you share with people you don't know. When it comes to word-of-mouth it's no different. Posting online ratings and reviews came in at 24.9% of the respondents, again not a surprise. Most sites don't relate the posting of ratings or reviews to a personal experience.
As an industry, we need to create the right tools that focus contributors of word-of-mouth content on sharing with people they know - not just posting to the world. The public posting should be considered a byproduct of the referral activity. Public referrals are an example of how word-of-mouth opinions can be both exchanged and posted to the broader audience. Only when we do a better job of creating personal experiences that relate to our offline reality will we see participation in these activities increase.
No matter how much we want to change the world with new web practices and tools, we have to remain keenly aware of human nature. It's as simple as observing our offline behavior.