An interesting op-ed piece in The New York Times on Sunday looked at the importance of “word of mouth” in defining individuals’ candidate preferences. The essence of the article was that voters are swayed much more by what an acquaintance or friend says about a political candidate than a television ad.
The op-ed piece reported that “a Roper poll found the number of people who said they get good ideas and information from television ads declined from 1977 to 2003, while the number who said the same about word of mouth increased by 25 percentage points.” The authors of the piece reported that their own “mid-December survey of Iowa voters found 38 percent saying they trusted information provided by TV ads, while 69 percent trusted “comments from friends, relatives and colleagues.”
While not surprising — ask most small-business owners and they will tell you the best source of new customers is “word of mouth” or personal references — the Times article furthers the argument that the phenomenon of user-generated content will have a lasting impact on our culture. As consumers shift through the piles of choices — cameras, dentists, politicians — they will continue to turn to information that can distinguish hype from reality. Humans have always been in pursuit of “perfect information,” and while we remain a long way away from that state of nirvana, the Internet and Web 2.0 are bringing us closer day after day.