“Word of mouth will never go out of style. It is, and will remain, the #1 way people make choices about brands.” —Jamie Turner, CEO of The 60 Second Marketer
In the past, marketing by word of mouth was pretty straightforward: businesses tried to improve their reputations by getting people talking about them.
Today, word of mouth marketing is still around—it’s not going anywhere any time soon, of course. But one huge thing has changed the way we talk to each other about our favorite (and least favorite) things: social media.
Everything posted on social media about businesses—from product reviews by customers to content created by influencers—is an example of this new wave of word of mouth marketing. Whether you’re using Facebook’s Recommend feature or tagging your favorite restaurant in an Instagram story, you’re instantly communicating to others that you endorse a place or product.
So how can businesses take advantage of this new, improved version of possibly the oldest advertising technique in the book?
Be Memorable (In Good Ways)
Obviously, you want your business to stand out—for many more reasons than generating word-of-mouth buzz. In this case, when you make the effort to be memorable, you’re making the effort for people to start talking about you.
Being memorable can be as simple as constantly providing excellent customer service or as complex as coming up with never-before-seen ways to advertise yourself (we’re looking at you, IKEA—particularly your pregnancy test ad). Either way, the benefits of these acts are substantial.
Some brands might be tempted to take the “any press is good press” route—but bad press travels much faster nowadays with everyone ready to tweet about their awful experiences. Because it’s easier than ever for anyone to stumble on your dirty laundry, it’s often best to try to keep it in the hamper instead of airing it out to dry in an attempt to get people talking.
In other words? Be on your best behavior. Sure, people remember the fight they saw at Taco Bell, but that fight isn’t necessarily going to make them want to eat a Gordita Supreme®.
Get Those Reviews
Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising report found that 83% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. So, when a pleased customer writes a glowing review on Facebook, their family and friends suddenly have a promising lead for their next purchase right in their newsfeed.
But it’s not only friends and family that seem trustworthy to consumers. In 2017, BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey found that “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations,” and that “positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more.” Plus, almost half of consumers will only use a business if it has a 4-star rating or higher.
Intention to buy is greatly increased when a consumer sees that someone they trust has had a positive experience. And even if the review isn’t from a friend or family member, seeing reviews that rehash positive experiences is still a great incentive to a new customer.
So instead of waiting for the great reviews to start pouring in, think of ways to encourage your customers to leave reviews. It can be as simple as auto-generating a friendly “tell us what you think!” email a few days after a purchase is delivered, or it could be a more involved method, such as offering incentives (like small discounts or rewards points) in exchange for leaving a review.
Not only should you encourage your customers to leave reviews, but you should show those reviews off, too. Showcase them on your site, post them in your shop windows, whatever you like: as long as you’re showing the public that people like you, the public is more likely to trust you and buy from you.
“New word of mouth customers convert easily because they come ready-made with trust and confidence in your business,” says David Mercer, founder of SME Pals. “By contrast, people arriving from advertising, organic search traffic, and other online marketing channels still need to be convinced. They are a step or two behind in the sales funnel.”
Encourage User-Generated Content
Why spend time and money making content showing off how great you are when you can get your fans to do it for you?
That’s basically the idea behind user-generated content: your customers are already taking pictures of your food or in your clothes, so why not use it as advertising? It’s a more authentic form of influencer marketing—which involves you having to pay an influencer to post about you—because you’re showcasing actual customers. That’s something potential new customers are likely to appreciate (and your advertising budget will appreciate it, too).
Of course, there’s nothing really wrong with influencer marketing—in fact, almost half of Twitter users surveyed by Annalect said they rely on influencers to get product recommendations.
Olapic’s 2016 Consumer Trust Survey found that people “trust images of other consumer on social media seven times more than advertising.” And 56% of responders said they were “more likely to buy a product after seeing it featured in a positive or relatable user-generated image.”
So how do you encourage your fans to take this step? Having your own hashtag is a simple way: people like to feel involved, so if they know that others are going to be surfing your hashtag for interesting posts, they’re likely to make a post of their own to get some likes for themselves.
Hashtag not enough for you? Make it a competition. The fan post with the most likes and shares could get a discount, for example. Or, just repost the ones you like the best. People itch for that kind of exposure—and, let’s be honest, attention. (We’re not judging. We’re advertisers; we love attention.)
Another benefit of user-generated content? Increased engagement.
“Word of mouth marketing works to build an engaged fan base rather than a buy-and-bolt customer,” explains Matt Warren, founder and CEO of Veeqo. “Higher-engaged customers buy more often and recommend their friends more often, extending your return on time spent on the strategy and generating a high customer lifetime loyalty.”
To sum up, marketing through word of mouth is an old concept with a shiny new coat of paint in a shade called “social media blue.” Grab your paintbrush: it’s time to get people talking.
Need more help developing your marketing strategy? Contact Kirkpatrick Creative today. Your business will be glad you did.