In many posts have we written about the relevance of influencer marketing and how it differs from the value of brand advocates. Today, many marketing organizations and brands have understood the power of influencer marketing and dedicate a significant amount of their budget to them. And there are good reason for it which we can see from one of the latest infographics in the market provided by the guys from The Shelf.
Shoppers trust in influencers and use them as their third-most-consulted consumer decision information source. Although brand and retail sites are still in the lead as an information source. Blogs already come in right after them, even ranking higher than well-trusted social networks like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.
Years ago, we have made clear that the 3 Rs of the social consumer will be leading the decision making process in the future: ratings, reviews and recommendations. The infographic is another proof for our thesis those days. These days, influencer are more trusted than brand content where recommendations have got the biggest power with 92% of consumers trusting in those. Reviews have become the second most trusted source (70%). People also try to stay on top of thought leaderwith blog content that is consulted by 47%.
Although the opportunities are there, only two out of three marketers (65%) invest in influencer marketing so far. and every second company separates their budgets for sponsored social content from other budgets (52%). Still, the amount of investment is not „nickles and dimes“ anymore for brands and companies. Every fourth company already spends over $500,000 already.
Why influencers play an important role inside your content strategy is obvious. They can explain products from various subjective and objective angles. They can play an important role in your community management when negative input needs tob e turned into positive arguments. They can have a big impact in your content production strategy in having an external view on your business and relevance in the market, and thus become your „search-engine-optimizers“. And, they will play a significant role in your sales approach if you take your time to think about it (or maybe talk to us if you don’t have an answer).
Have a look at the infographic and decide yourself if and how you would like to use influencer marketing in the future.
Some years ago and in many seminars, we make clear that the 3Rs of social consumers will revolutionize the sales world: ratings, reviews and recommendations. However, the question arises what make people recommend brands and services? What is their intrinsic motivation or human driver that makes them push out more positive comments around a brand.
A recent infographic by Social Media Link pulled together the most important findings of a study that surveyed 24.000 social media consumers. Still, the best customer experience that leverages recommendations is „a positive experience with the brand“ (93%) and „receiving a free product or sample“ (79%). On the other hand, a poor customer experiences motivates sharing, too. 71% stated „a negative experience with a brand“ makes them write a review as well.
The survey respondents also mentioned that they are more likely to trust a product recommendation on Facebook than any other social network (71%), followed by Instagram with only 38%.
Not surprisingly, Facebook and retailer websites ist he place to discover new brands and services (53%). However, for purchasing the retailer becomes more important and after purchasing a product people use predominantly Facebook to share their buy (54%) – again Instagram comes in second place.
Now, when you think you just need to give a free product to someone, it makes them write a review or recommendation, you might be wrong. Although, 88% trust friends’ and family members’ reviews when these write about their give free product in exchange, the bloggers only come in at 78%. BUT: Is payment included in exchange for the review, trust-level goes down – especially at bloggers to 48%. Still, the best way ist o have apersonal story which is authentic, not animated and personal.
But what if reviews are simply wrong, or bought from people that don’t flag these reviews as hidden content marketing derivates? Years ago, we might have asked our friends or close people where to go for dinner, what music tape to buy, or which book to read, we now just go online and read what some foreigner might have said. No matter which mentality this person has, which preferences, which background, which age and gender. The 3 Rs make our decisions easier, we think.
Although we might have all guessed it, the proof of wrong online reviews now comes with a study from the MIT and Northwestern University that examined over 400,000 reviews in 6 months. The study states that many reviews were simply deceptive, untrue or even written by people who never tested or bought the product or service. In 5% of all negative reviews people get paid to hype products. Most of these people are writing bad and often untrue reviews but are actually newcomer to the business they are talking about.
The good part of this study is that the study offer some advice for us and tells us how to detect deceptive story-telling.
„What is most compelling is most reviews tend to be too detailed. Another easy clue look for is repeated use of exclamation points. Two, three or four for emphasis, is often associated with deception,“ Eric Anderson, Northwestern University Professor and co-author of the study said. „At the end (of the study) we concluded that many of the negative reviews came from customers who were trying to act as self proclaimed appointed brand managers.“ Anderson summed up.
However, many reviews might be untrue or bought, it is probably a good way to try to understand what negative reviews are basically saying and balance it against positive reviews. Seeing the positive reviews makes us get out of the bad tonality which often is simply based on anger and frustration around bad services and untrue or bought reviews. And the more people are trying to dive deeper into the intention and personality of the reviews, the faster they might detect if the review is deceptive.
„Really what you have to do is read a lot of them. Don’t just read the 2 or 3 negative ones which may or may not be real–read alot of the reviews.“ Ken Bernhardt, former Professor of Marketing, Georgia State University
If marketers are looking to understand the profile of a social consumers, they need to have deep insights into their souls and needs. Beyond Digital has asked 3,000 US and UK consumers about the two products and services they had most recently researched online and which steps take them through the purchase process.
Apart from showing gender differences, sharing becomes the main element of strategy. The social consumer is a two-faced personality: First, they can either be categorized as a high or low sharer. A human being that utilizes differtent digital channels in a different manner, depending on whether he or she is researching and interacting with high or low involvement products. Those with a high sharer profile are the most valuable for brands. They recommend products 3x more often and influence others’ purchases…
In the last weeks, I came across the same issue in many meetings with clients. Social consumers increase their use of Social Media and social networks to state their opinion about a company, brand or service. Sometimes to rate the way companies make use of Social Media, or how they engage with them in campaigns or branded social hubs. Sometimes to complain about incredible customer service, or the quality of products. Sometimes just to link or share some content piece that attracted their attention.
The input described above by consumers can be summarized under the 3R’s: ratings, reviews and recommendations. These 3 R’s will challenge companies and brands in the future. Companies know that they have to find a way to deal with all the content published, as well as to establish ways to make use of it in the context of their business.
Years ago, we would have seen ratings on Amazon, eBay or rating platforms Ciao. Today, there are external and internal rating opportunities for customers. Most modern content management systems have implemented rating systems. Content and shopping pages have their 5-star systems, percentage scales or „thumbs-up-and-down“ to evaluate the quality of the content or product provided. Facebook, Twitter and other social sharing buttons act in the same way, reach out and distribute ratings to a wider audience to name just some options the social consumer has here.
While the chance to find yourself as a brand in a Twitterstorm was low in the past, the tables have turned. Companies like H&M, Motrin or BMW have become victims of reviews in the last years. Whether through crowdsourcing or blogging, reviews could leverage or damage your business success in a day’s time. The question remains the same for brands. Most consumers don’t differentiate between the trusted and personal reviews. In which reviews can they trust, what not, and what could end in a brand nightmare? The list of review sites is long, the one of personal blogs, social networking accounts, etc. even longer, and getting intense the more people review their personal views. And then, organizations have to bear in mind that 97% of purchase decisions are based on digital experiences.
Probably, the most dynamic part of the 3R’s is the recommendations part. In social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn) people hint, share and forward quick opinions about a film, a hotel or a show in minutes – and forget about it. Companies and brands need to take a position on these recommendations, or clear up the damage as best as they can. Well, if they find them and have the processes, people and resources in place to react. Some recommendations are still in the stealth mode as of semantic detection issues, or as they are only shared within the social graph of a person. And some recommendations are not even recommendations. They get catalyzed through social banner opportunities with Googe Plus buttons inside Google ads or via recommended people of the personal social graph in Facebook ads. And some will stay invisible for brands – most offline spoken words.
The challenge for companies in the future will be to educate social consumers on their way to social purchase. Social consumers often don’t pay attention to who said what, their gender, habits, age and preferences. Customers tend to be affected by a negative scale although it may be positive. 97% is not 100%, 4 start is not 5 star, the last opinion that was the only one negative, and so on. Most consumers don’t check who or how many people have rated the hotel on tripadvisor or booking.com. So, what is better? One rating in the 100% range, or 5 ratings getting 95%? A review where companies can react and improve the quality of their service? Or a recommendation that they could use as a statement to their blog? In my eyes, we will need to have seal of quality buttons that tell people to be aware of the fact that the 3 R’s are a good orientation for quality but not the final truth. And marketers should think about the best alternative to straigthen and strengthen their brands whatever effective the 3 R’s might be for their business.
Would you agree…?