Viva voce: A retailer’s best friend
Although the venue may have changed, from school yards and water coolers to Facebook profiles and Yelp reviews, people are still recommending and deriding brands to family, friends and colleagues for the benefit of their fellow consumers.
According to Nicola Alcorn, managing partner at Deloitte and co-author of the Deloitte Media Consumer Survey, the move to digital has potentially made word of mouth even more important.
“It’s still word of mouth, just not as we know it,” says Alcorn.
“The difference now is reach and trust.”
In a pre-digital world, word of mouth came from a smaller, more-trusted social circle, whereas today we have access to recommendations and opinions from strangers, and the difficulty comes in assessing which opinions to trust and which not to.
“Because social media has allowed us to virtually open our trusted circle, it has enabled a broader channel for word of mouth to be even more powerful than when face-to-face previously limited the reach that someone’s recommendation could have,” says Alcorn.
“The mechanism and channel might change, but the desire to hear and learn from the experiences of others likely will not.”
According to Deloitte’s survey of more than 2,000 participants, the two most important influences on buying decisions were ‘recommendations from a friend/family/known acquaintance’ (73 per cent) and ‘online review or recommendation from someone within your social media circle’ (55 per cent).
These two influences are variations of word of mouth, and signal that brands that successfully engender these actions from its customers, can essentially have them do some of its marketing for free.
“What customers say about your business, products and services, be it positive or negative, can be more impactful than what you say about yourself,” says Tracey Halls, marketing director of cloud platform GoDaddy.
“If you treat every customer touchpoint and interaction with the utmost respect, you can help to encourage word of mouth and nurture positive sentiment, helping to save you money on marketing activities in the long run.”
Social media the go-to
Although traditional marketing is still influential in purchasing decisions, television advertisements being the third result in the survey, it’s clear that social media is the go-to way to interact with and influence customers moving forward.
Social media’s ability to enable multi-participant conversations allows customers to have a voice beyond the reach a brand’s marketing budget may allow by including their friends and family.
Halls notes if a customer is speaking positively about the brand, it is important to reach out to them and nurture the relationship.
“Keeping their commentary authentic, and not contrived, may help to drive continued positive advocacy for your brand,” says Halls.
Obviously, not all social media platforms are created equal, and this in some cases is by design.
It is important to focus on the social platform that will connect your brand with the most relevant audience to its product or service. Don’t let new and shiny features dictate where the brand will be active – go where the audience is, and build the social offering based on the platforms features and conversion.
“Really consider your target audience,” says Hall.
“If you’re appealing to young people, Instagram might be the way; if you’re wanting to use social as a way to generate traffic to your site and promote products and longer-form content, Facebook or LinkedIn might be a better option.”
“From there, you can create content that is culturally and topically relevant to their lives and engage them in your brand’s conversation.”
Regardless of where a business’ content is being posted, it must be relevant to its target audience and appropriate for the platform.
It becomes easy for businesses to fall into the trap of creating content for content’s sake, however if the content serves a purpose it can become easier to engage customers and, in turn, encourage them to spread the word.
“Ask yourself: ‘How is it going to benefit the reader?’” asks Halls. “Consider why your customer is visiting the platform.”
People go to social media to be informed, entertained, and to find out what is happening in the world and their personal networks.
If a brand can create content that specifically addresses these wants, it can help customers take notice of what it has to say, and the social activity won’t necessarily be seen to be “flogging a product.”
For smaller businesses trying to compete with larger, more recognised industry leaders, social media can be a great way to level the playing field – but it isn’t free.
To reach the maximum amount of people, it could be worth your while to put a few dollars behind a strategically targeted post.
Can’t please everyone
Managing a social platform isn’t always easy, however, and the content posted online will almost always attract negativity from someone.
“If negative word of mouth does come around, try to be proactive and rectify the situation as soon as possible without letting it fester,” advises Halls. “Try to reach out to the customer before it spreads – especially if it’s on social media.”
If a customer is shouting about the negative experience they had with the brand, it could help to say hello and apologise, offer to help them and request feedback to improve the experience moving forward.
Many customers respond well to being contacted, heard and could turn from being a negative customer into a positive shopper relatively easily.
Social media is not necessarily the only avenue for reaching your audience; it just remains the easiest way of interacting with them.
Customers are now proactively using technology to filter out more traditional advertisements, with approximately 31 per cent of those surveyed by Deloitte using ad blockers.
The vast majority use these programs on laptops (74 per cent), followed by desktops (55 per cent), smartphones (28 per cent) and tablets (23 per cent).
It should be noted that as of early 2018, Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari browsers (which account for approximately 80 per cent of the Australian browser market) began automatically filtering out some ads for users.
In this environment it becomes even more important to capitalise on every interaction and convert potential customers into brand ambassadors.
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