A key promise of social media is still to generate positive word of mouth for your brand. Our consumer research has shown that about half of online people has done at least once following an online purchase.
In a world of overpromise & overinformation, this word of mouth is absolutely critical – it’s showing to the world that your promise hold actually true, and you deliver a product/service which is really worth the money.
What is nicer about social media is the prevalence of real profiles, with a picture & and a name attached to it – it simply looks real. Compared to the traditional ‘Ratings& reviews’, which are generally anonymous, they are much more credible to the eye of many people. In ecommerce, we have shown that after price & product availability, opinions from others is the third source of decision making. Think about it for you – the last time you made a considered purchase, how many ‘social cues’ did you look for ? What if you don’t find them ? What if you find them but they talk mostly about your competitor ?
Now you can do two things. Either sit & hope that after a product/service purchase, your customers will be nice enough to spread the word on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If you do so, you may end up with 2 to 5% of your customers spontaneously spreading the word – more if you are Apple or have an incredible brand. Or you can activate, encourage, stimulate, & even incentivize your customers to talk, hereby reaching up to 30% of customers who will leave you (& their friends/followers) this so valuable ‘social currency’.
Here is how to, in 5 steps:
Step 1. Think about your difference. What makes your brand special ? What makes your products/services special ? What is different with them ? People will more gladly talk about something unique or special than a common attribute all your competitors share – which is a good thing, because that’s how you’d want to get noticed by their friends. You’ll need to emphasize that when you ask people to talk about you. If you cannot answer to this question, you have a bigger strategic problem to solve first.
Step 2. Identify the moments of truth between your customers & you. Moments of truth are typically after a customer just bought a product/service from you, and after (s)he used it. Actually, people are more willing to talk about a product/service after usage than anything else. There might be other moments you think are important, such as a touch point with the customer service, or during a superb marketing campaign you’ve crafted with your agency. During a moment of truth, people are excited/engaged into what you do and much more willing to share the news. You need to generate the social testimonials at this point.
Step 3. Implement ‘Call to opinions’ for every one of those moments, playing on what makes you different. Notice that I use the word ‘Call to opinions’, not ‘Call to share’. If you simply ask someone to share a page or a purchase, you are asking him/her to advertise for you, why would people do that ? You need to first & foremost ask about his/her opinion because you genuinely care about it, & invite to do it on social media, for the sake of transparency. You should provide a variety of options, and leverage the ‘programmed URLs’ that social media offers. For instance, Twitter proposes the ‘Web intent’, a simple way to generate a pre-written Tweet from a simple URL – that people can simply modify & post in a few seconds. You should definitely include a hashtag, possibly a ‘@mention’ of your Twitter account, maybe the URL of the campaign/product about the tweet, and a sentence to be completed (make sure to leave sufficient characters left!). You can have a full sentence to be corrected but this will feel less real as many will leave it untouched. Check out this example. Similarly, Facebook proposes what they call a ‘Feed Dialog’, with similar (even though less powerful) features – you can simply ask people to write on your Facebook wall too, by providing a link to it in a call to testimonials. Last, our research has shown that many people actually prefer to leave a testimonial using their social profile (Twitter/Facebook connect), without necessarily posting it to their friends. You can definitely include that option too. The last option is to let people give an anonymous story on your Website, which is less preferred for you but still valued by many customers.
Step 4. Amplify as much as you can. A story published by a customer on social media is highly credible & valuable as many friends/followers will discover how great you are. What if you could make it seen by thousands of people ? Amplification is the answer. Retweet the tweets, like the Facebook posts, re-pin the pins. In any case, publish them back onto your Website – some on your home page, others on some product/category pages: make sure the right social content reaches the right person on the right page. What should you do with negative opinions ? If you show that you care by answering, you should amplify them too – this will boost your credibility & openness. Net, a social amplification should geared towards creating a good social picture of you: you should show your best profile as a brand, but it still should be you. Last, you can buy as well some paid media to further reach new prospects, accompanied with e.g., a special promotion – social currency & promotions work great together, since they increase the ‘sense of urgency’ to buy & show how much your action is buzzing. Think about Facebook sponsored stories, sponsored tweets, & even sponsored content & banner advertising on other medias
Step 5. Iterate. Just like anything in digital, you won’t get it completely right initially. Maybe you should offer an incentive ? Consumers are about 60% more likely to share the news if they get something in return. Maybe you need to be slightly more assertive when you ask for a social story ? Maybe you only implemented the query for social opinions in a confirmation email, and you should have it as well on a Webpage right after a purchase ? Just like SEO/SEA, just like optimizing conversion, it’s something you’ll need to optimize on a regular basis.
At some point, you will see your natural traffic going up, as more and more of your URLs get shared and discussed in social media (a now key part of SEO ), you will see a bigger proportion of customers coming through friends/followers as a direct impact of their action, you will see conversion on your Website going up as people find the social cues/proof they need to make a purchase without having to go elsewhere to find them, and you may end up in a marketer’s dream: a self-feeding virtuous circle of referrals leading to new customers, themselves becoming ambassadors & recruiting others, all exponentially.
Is this possible ? Try by yourself and let me know you results in the comments, or Twitter.