According to a new report from Nielsen, word-of-mouth recommendations continue to be the most trusted form of advertising for consumers.

The “Trust in Advertising” report found that for 84 percent of consumers, recommendations from people they know has the biggest influence on their decisions to do business with a particular brand.

Some of the other forms of “trusted” advertising include:

  • Brand websites – 69 percent
  • Consumer opinions posted online – 68 percent
  • Editorial content – 67 percent
  • TV ads – 64 percent

Bottom Line: Word-of-mouth recommendations have always played an important role in how brands — both large and small — attract new customers and grow their business.

The only difference today is that now, those personal recommendations from friends, family members, and colleagues are happening online, through social interactions, and online reviews.

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of this evolving form of trusted advertising is to make sure you’re interacting and engaging with your audience online. By engaging your customers, you make them part of your marketing team. It’s the visible engagement and positive endorsements that will bring you tomorrow’s customers.

Learn more about how you can use social word-of-mouth marketing to attract your next great customer.

Here are some of the other news stories that caught our eye this week…

Images in Facebook link posts now 4x larger on mobile and 8x larger on desktop

Facebook is changing the way people view link posts on the social network, by making them more visual than ever before.

With its latest update, Facebook has increased the size of the images accompanying link posts by 4x on mobile and 8x on desktop. Images on link posts are currently 526 x 274 in the desktop news feed, compared to the previous 154 x 154 size used this past January 2013.

Bottom Line: Facebook hasn’t been shy about the fact that images perform very well on the social network. Facebook has reported that photos, photo albums, and videos get 120 percent, 180 percent, and 100 percent more engagement than links and text-only posts.

It is unclear how this update will impact those numbers, but what is clear is that visual content should continue to play a major role in your social media marketing strategy.

Get ready! 2013 holiday season is shorter and starts sooner

The “holiday shopping season,” which traditionally kicks off the Friday after Thanksgiving, will be shorter and starts sooner than previous years.

How can that be possible? Cynthia Boris of MarketingPilgrim explains:

“This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 28, which drops the shopping period to only 25 days. That’s a tough break for small stores that need every hour of holiday sales time in order to make their year.”

Despite the shorter season, some companies still have a positive outlook. Analytics firm ShopperTrak predicts a 2.4 percent rise in retail sales over the last year.

Bottom Line: With September quickly coming to a close, it’s time to start planning for the holiday season. It may also be time to start getting your audience ready for the holidays as well.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should start digging out your decorations just yet, but it could be the perfect time to begin previewing your holiday plans.

Here are some important dates to be aware of:

Pinterest introduces Promoted Pins

Its official: paid advertising has come to Pinterest.

With the new “promoted pins,” product, brands will be able to pay to show certain pins at the top of search results and category feeds.

In a blog post, Pinterest founder and CEO Ben Silbermann affirmed that the company is committed to offering an ad experience that is both “tasteful” and “transparent.” They also promised to focus on relevancy when promoting pins on the network.

Bottom Line: For a lot of small businesses and organizations, the idea of paying to promote their content on a site like Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter may seem like an unrealistic or unnecessary prospect.

But for brands that are serious about making these sites a major part of their online marketing strategy, paying to get the word out could be a worthwhile investment.

Paid social media advertising is just one of the topics we will be covering at next week’s advanced social media webinar, From Just Using Social Media to Getting Real Results.

This 90-minute session will provide the training you need to take your social media to the next level and develop a strategic plan to start driving business results that will help your business grow. Reserve your spot.