Is Your Neighbor Shooting the Breeze—or Shilling for Febreze?

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According to an article in Ad Age this week, companies spent nearly $1 billion on word-of-mouth marketing last year. And that total is expected to balloon to $3.7 billion by 2011.

A lot of that money is being spent on social networking media.

But savvy marketers are also hiring local “brand ambassadors”—everyday folks with deep social connections—to talk up their products among friends, colleagues and neighbors.

Why? Because people believe other people more than they believe advertising. In fact, a Nielsen poll showed that 78% of respondents trusted recommendations from other consumers compared to only 15% for the second-most credible source: newspapers.

Just something to think about if a relative asks you to try a glass of Mott’s Clamato juice—now with even more zesty horseradish taste—at Thanksgiving dinner next week.