Why is word of mouth really the most effective form of communication?

When was the last time you heard a bit of gossip? We’re all guilty of enjoying a bit of gossip, aren’t we.

Perhaps you’ve heard from someone that your friend, Joanne is travelling to Sardinia to visit an Italian stud she met on a dating site. Could be plausible, right? Joanne has never been one to wait around.

Perhaps you heard it the once and you thought it might be a little far-fetched.

Perhaps you’ve heard it a couple of times, but you still can’t be sure.

Okay, now you’ve heard it from three different sources. It’s got to be true.

Regardless of whether it is true or not, we associate repetition with accuracy. We’re particularly susceptible to attributing other people’s judgements to truth. Not only does repetition of information through a variation of sources instil confidence in us that it is true, but repetition through a single source works in the same way. This is called the illusory truth effect.

Imagine I told you Sardinia has the highest population of single men in all of Italy. As soon as I tell you, you may question this new piece of information. If I tell you repeatedly over an extended period of time, you’ll start to believe me. This is because we find familiar statements easier to process than those that are new. This is down to processing fluency, which contributes to the illusory truth effect.

So we essentially find belief in both familiar information and those that have social credibility.

How can we start to foster truths online by adopting the illusory truth effect? And may I add, I am not suggesting you ever lie to your customers. Joanne really did go to Sardinia.


Word of mouth

The most powerful form of advertising. There’s nothing more credible than the voice of another. Oral tradition spans generations and is a medium that has now been adapted to work online to the same effect. Personal experiences affirm customer satisfaction, many of us seeking out this social credibility through reviews.

Unfortunately, not every business is perfect and we can fall victim to poor reviews which can threaten our brand image. Pre-considered testimonials overcome this potential flaw. However, customers miss out on that transparency and social integrity. So what’s better? Open up an impartial platform for possible negativity or secure positivity whilst compromising on honesty?

Be real.

Reviews deliver lack of bias and unlike testimonials, they have an authenticity and undoctored, human quality. Allowing your customers to voice their opinions openly and be respected to do so will earn you trust. And this is much more valuable than an influx of immaculate, super nice reviews. Okay, sometimes, you may get a poor review; but this only shows that you are real and make mistakes like everyone. It’s how you deal with the negative feedback gracefully and constructively to deliver a better experience that will make you honourable.


Whilst repetition of positive social feedback will award you strength in your brand integrity, it is key that you also reiterate the point. Make brand messaging a key consideration of your content marketing and don’t rely on your visuals to sell themselves. Hearing is believing.

#3 of Cognitive Biases in Digital

Read #4 of Cognitive Biases in DigitalThe Mere-Exposure Effect: We like what we know

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