With brands turning more to earned media—the additional free exposure that a brand gets when consumers talk about a brand—they depend on motivated consumers to act as advocates. A survey conducted by Synovate for word-of-mouth ad network PostRelease investigated just how likely Internet users are to do that.

The most common word-of-mouth activity reported by respondents was helping a friend or family member with a purchase decision, but more than two-fifths also said they had shared advice offline about information they learned on the Web. Significantly fewer Internet users posted their own ratings and reviews online, and only about one-half as many shared links to articles or reviews about products.

Online and Offline Social Media/Word-of-Mouth Activities of US  Internet Users, by Gender, November 2009 (% of respondents in each  group)

Participation in most of the social media and word-of-mouth activities was highest among younger adults, almost one-half of whom gave in-person advice based on online information. Respondents ages 18 to 24 were also more likely than older Web users to post ratings and reviews, share links, and have a blog.

Online and Offline Social Media/Word-of-Mouth Activities of US  Internet Users, by Age, November 2009 (% of respondents in each group)

PostRelease also broke down respondents according to whether or not they participate in online forums, which about one-fifth of those polled did. Forum participants were significantly more likely to take part in all the activities queried. Notably:

  • 65% of forum contributors give advice offline based on information found online, compared with 35% of noncontributors.
  • 66% of forum contributors post online ratings and reviews, compared with 16.8% of noncontributors.
  • 43.6% of forum contributors share links to articles and reviews, versus 12% of noncontributors.
  • 20.6% of forum contributors publish a blog, compared with 2.1% of noncontributors.

Users of forums, who are already actively engaged in online social activity, make for “enthusiastic consumers and influential brand advocates,” according to a statement by Justin Choi, president and founder of PostRelease.

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