Why Marketers Need To Learn About Word-of-Mouth From Social Networks

Marketing folks love following trends, and here's one they should pay close attention to. Social networking sites are quickly becoming the preferred venue for sharing among Internet users, the latest research shows.

A new report by marketing firm SocialTwist, shows that social networking sites are gaining on the word-of-mouth advertising long dominated by email and treasured by marketers. Emails still account for 55 percent of referrals among Internet users, but social networking sites have seen a 10 percent increase in usage, as well as a 16 percent jump in click-throughs.

It is in the area of click-throughs that networking sites truly dominate, accounting for 60 percent of the market share over emails, blogs and instant messages.

SocialTwist analyzed more than a million referral messages using its Tell-a-Friend widget that allows users to share sites through social media. The data was first reported this week by Fast Company.

The findings from SocialTwist show, however, that not all social media sites are created equal. Facebook emerges on top once again by accounting for more than 78 percent of usage.   MySpace comes in at a suprising second place with 14.5 percent share, while Twitter maintains 5 percent of referrals.

Twitter can’t be too disappointed in this kind of third-place finish though. While the higher percent of sharing is done through Facebook, Twitter click through rates are about nine times that of Facebook. Twitter held an average of 19.04 clicks, compared to only 2.87 clicks through Facebook.

That’s the kind of data that has to make new Twitter CEO Dick Costolo smile as the site continues its attempted makeover from “140 characters or less” to mass marketing tool. Since April, Twitter has launched its Promoted Tweets and Trends ads and signed more than 30 brands.

Marketers, what do you think? Is Twitter a viable marketing tool?