From the archives: Word of mouth from strangers can be more influential than opinions from close friends

Recommendations from people we barely know can be more influential than opinions from our close friends, according to a study by Jacob Goldenberg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Barak Libai (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology), and Eitan Muller (Tel Aviv University).

The study focused on comparing the personal communication between closer and stronger communications that are within an individual’s own personal group (strong ties) and weaker and less personal communications that an individual makes with a wide set of their acquaintances and colleagues (weak ties).

Among the findings, the study showed:

  • The influence of weak ties is at least as strong as the influence of strong ties. Despite the relative inferiority of the weak tie parameter in the model’s assumptions, their effect approximates or exceeds that of strong ties, in all stages of the product life cycle. In other words, we trust strangers quite a bit.
  • Information dissemination is dominated by both weak and strong word of mouth, rather than advertising.
  • The smaller the network, the more influential recommendations from weak-tie sources become.

Learn more.


Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. CoCreatr

    Thank you for sharing this useful piece of research. One explanation I did not see in the paper could be: With close associates and strong ties may come shared history and personal agenda, even conflict of interest, whereas weak ties are easier to see as neutral on the matter at hand.

Featured Downloads

Download: “The Difference Map” by Bernadette Jiwa

We’re big fans of author of The Fortune Cookie Principle and TEDx speaker Bernadette Jiwa, who says that good marketing…

Read More

The first chapter of “The Social Media Side Door” by Ian Greenleigh

Ian reveals the best ways to earn the attention of influential people using social media channels.

Read More

9 Things to Share That Start Conversations

Use the examples in this guide to help inspire ways to make your message more portable and shareable.

Read More

3 Must-Use Word of Mouth Marketing Tools

These tools will help you kick off any word of mouth campaign no matter what topic, industry, or budget.

Read More

The Top Four Tips for Multiplying Your Word of Mouth

These tips can help you get your marketing to do more work without a lot of extra effort.

Read More

10 Ways to Turn Around Negative Word of Mouth

The most effective ways to stop negative WOM with examples from Zappos, FedEx, Dell, and more.

Read More
Get our free weekly newsletter

Join 35,000 brilliant word of mouth marketers by signing up for our free weekly email newsletter filled with actionable word of mouth ideas.

You’ll be blown away by just how good you can be at this.

Never display this again