Two basic things influence our decision to buy a particular product or service. One is a response to advertising, promotions and product information. The other is a word-of-mouth recommendation from someone who has used the product or service. In the past, that came from someone we actually knew and trusted.
This kind of honest recommendation has a greater influence on buying than anything else. Let’s face it, we usually trust our friends and family more than a sales rep or magazine ad. Marketers who understand this have used testimonials and celebrity endorsements for years to help influence us to buy their products.
Not so long ago, we had to actually know someone who used the product to get a word-of-mouth recommendation. Now social media is putting the traditional word-of-mouth recommendation on steroids. Anyone can leave reviews and ratings online. Many of us read these reviews and ratings allowing the whole world to have an impact on the choices we make.
While it is not possible to control word of mouth recommendations, a business can influence it.
- Social media (the same thing that started all of this) offers a way for businesses to form relationships with customers in order to leverage their loyalty to attract new customers. Loyal customers are more likely to recommend your business if you provide useful information that is easy to share.
- Monitor and respond to reviews. Negative reviews should be dealt with openly and publicly. Positive reviews can be used in your other marketing materials and on your social media sites.
- Be honest. Don’t have employees leave reviews, or invent people to like your goods and services. You run the risk of being found out which can tarnish your reputation in a way that will be difficult to recover from. There is something called the “Streisand Effect” named after Barbara Streisand. She learned that attempting to suppress information on the web can backfire and end up as a bigger story than the original one that was trying to be suppressed.
Marketing in the age of Social Media needs to take into account that conversations and recommendations are going on at a level that is truly revolutionary. No matter what some “marketing experts” say, no one can control this. Businesses can only hope to positively influence this worldwide conversation by providing useful information to their social media fans and to be open and honest while dealing in this new marketplace.