Of the high-spending social marketers surveyed by Microsoft, 27% said word of mouth was the most important reason for their investment, followed closely by 26% favoring brand considerations.
Plus, direct response was most important for 21% and CRM for 18%; while 'inbound' or 'listening' was primary for only 6%.
"However, among the many challenges to social-media efforts are ensuring the right targets are reached and determining the ROI of such campaigns," according to Uyenco.
What does word of mouth mean for marketers? For the purposes of Microsoft's study, it means identifying and reaching influencers; generating word-of-mouth conversations about brand, products or deals, then rebroadcasting word of mouth to target audiences.
The challenge, says Uyenco: "Our study found that leading social media marketers believe that almost two-thirds of the word of mouth they work so hard to generate doesn't reach their target audience."
Microsoft also found that there are significant challenges to be solved in driving word of mouth and managing social communities. In particular, many social marketers face challenges in making sure their communities are target appropriate, in getting new fans and followers and preventing churn.
Going forward, Uyenco suggests that the industry focus less on social as a "siloed" platform, and start leveraging it as a tool to help accomplish specific marketing objectives.
Recent research published by Microsoft's Natasha Hritzuk last month found nearly 50% of consumers are likely to purchase products as a result of word of mouth, while 90% of consumer conversations happen offline.
"This certainly backs up social marketers' desire to reach the right social audience for their brand," Uyenco said regarding Hritzuk's findings. "After all, not all audiences are equal."