Consumers who are passionate about their interests spend a lot of time online keeping up to date, according to Yahoo! and MediaVest’s “Passionistas: The New Empowered Consumers” study. These consumers spend six minutes online for every one minute spent with the same content by most Internet users. The Yahoo!-MediaVest study also found that such consumers were favorable toward brands associated with their interests.

"If you observe the natural behavior of passionate people as a brand marketer you can take advantage of their behavior toward others," Edwin Wong, director of the consumer insights organization at Yahoo!, told eMarketer.

Mr. Wong said passionate people were naturally predisposed to spread not only the word about their interests but also the associated brands.

More than one-half of consumers said they would try a brand they had not considered if it were associated with their passion, versus 41% of typical users. About one-half said their opinion of the brand would be more favorable if associated with their passion, versus 34% of typical users.

More than four in 10 respondents said their opinions of brands that sponsored events related to their passions were more positive, compared with three in 10 typical users.

The number of consumers whose advice is sought, trusted and acted upon by consumers is increasing.

eMarketer predicts there will be 34.4 million of these influential US Internet users in 2011, up from 26.8 million in 2007.

But brand marketers need an authentic approach to make word of mouth work well.

"Consumers trust the opinions of other consumers, and the response rate to messages disseminated spontaneously is obviously an appealing result," said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst.

"However, inspiring consumers to ‘spread the word’ is challenging, and clumsy attempts at it can do more harm than good," she said.

Via eMarketer