Word of mouth

It is worth remembering that, in addition to the methods above, word of mouth plays an important role in promoting sites, particularly consumer sites, where the Internet is currently a novelty. Opinion Research Corporation International, ORCI, reported on a study amongst US consumers that showed that the typical Internet consumer tells 12 other people about his or her online shopping experience. This compares with the average US consumer, who tells 8.6 additional people about a favourite film and another 6.1 people about a favourite restaurant! It has been said that if the online experience is favourable a customer will tell 12 people, but if it is bad, they will tell twice as many, so word of mouth can be negative also. Parry (1998) reported that for European users, word of mouth through friends, relatives and colleagues was the most important method by which users found out about web sites, being slightly more important than search engines and directories or links from other sites.

Thus the role of opinion leaders and multi-step communications with target audiences receiving information about the Internet experience from opinion leaders, the mass media and the Internet, appear to be perhaps even more important in relation to the Internet than for other media. Dichter (1966) summarised how word-of-mouth communications work. To exploit such communications, it is necessary for marketers to use appropiate techniques to target and adapt the message for the opinion leaders when a product or service is at an early stage of diffusion (Rogers, 1983). Viral marketing (see later) will often target these opinion leaders to become advocates in initial contacts.

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