Years ago, before there were such things as social media, user reviews and the Internet, there used to be a men’s store in my hometown of South Bend, Ind. Their tagline was “one man tells another.” They were ahead of their time, and that simple phrase is at the very heart of today’s socially-driven marketing.
What that store knew then and what companies are today beginning to acknowledge, is that the best advertisement for your brand isn’t going to come from television, print or banner ads. The best advertisement is when one man (or woman) tells another.
Relying on customers instead of an ad agency to spread the word is risky business, since you lose an element of control over the conversation. But consumers will give more weight to a personal recommendation than they will a television commercial, and because of the prevalence of online user reviews and review platforms like CrowdReviews.com which take extra steps to ensure a review’s legitimacy, buying decisions are heavily influenced by this type of social user-generated content.
What’s wrong with television ads?
There’s a reason behind the logic of moving to direct social engagement tactics like user reviews, and that’s because the younger demographics just don’t respond to television commercials as much. In a Boston Consulting Group survey, it was shown that millennials engage with brands more deeply than do Baby Boomers. Fifty-two percent of millennials use social media on their mobile devices to note that they like a brand, while only 33 percent of Boomers do so and 39 percent of millennials post product reviews. According to the BCG report, “It is more difficult through traditional marketing to convince a U.S. millennial than an older U.S. consumer that a brand is relevant to him or her. Millennials turn to much wider networks for advice.”
Historically, a common tactic in advertising was to provide testimonials from experts, which for a time, was successful. In a 1949 television commercial for example, consumers were told that doctors prefer Camel cigarettes over other tobacco brands, but today millennials just aren’t buying it. “Millennials care less about what the experts say and more about what their peers say,” said Carlos Garay, CEO of SOURCEvapes, one of the biggest brands of vaping products that uses product reviews as part of its marketing strategy.
“The key to a review strategy is maintaining the integrity of the reviews,” said Garay. “Our strategy is simple. We just ask consumers to write a review after a purchase, and we’ve found that in most cases, they are willing to do so. We have over 5,600 verified reviews, the most of any vaporizer company, with a five-star average. This kind of customer validation and attention to quality, has made us the No. 1 brand for enthusiasts of Hemp-derived CBD wax.”
SOURCEvapes’ basic tactic is simple, straightforward and not intrusive. A simple auto-emailing system sends a short and friendly note, asking customers to leave a review. SOURCEvapes has partnered with Yotpo, which also increases the credibility of the reviews by showing reviews from verified buyers — and it simplifies the process by providing customers with an easy link.
What review sites do you want to be on?
Larger review sites like CrowdReviews.com, Yelp!, or Angie’s List are some of the best known brands, and directing users to one of those gives you a better chance of recognition, the benefit of association with a well-known review brand, as well as added credibility since there is a vetting process. In the case of CrowdReviews, the site verifies reviewers’ identities as well as the legitimacy of the companies being reviewed.
While those larger sites typically offer reviews of multiple different product or service categories, smaller sites may cater to a specific niche, with sites that specialize in reviewing everything from tobacco vaping products, to mattress review sites. In addition to the broader review sites, marketers may also wish to incorporate selected niche review sites into the mix. I spoke with the webmaster of niche review site bestmattress-brand.org, who offered some insight into how marketers are using these types of sites to help create brand awareness. Since most of these smaller sites are not as well known, it is important for the marketer to choose a review site that offers in-depth information, well-written and detailed reviews and articles and an unbiased look at companies and products.
Finally, there are spam review sites that should be avoided at all costs. These are the ones with thinly-written reviews (many of which are obviously fake), and what are obviously paid affiliate links to each company’s website. Affiliate relationships are not an indication that a review site isn’t credible, but if there is a relationship, it should be disclosed plainly.
User review best practices.
- Lose control. Encourage the social conversation and become a part of it, but don’t try to control it. Trying to force direction, editing or deleting posts, or paying for positive reviews, all are tactics that run contrary to the sentiment of social advertising and user-generated content.
- Gently encourage participation. Ask for the review without being demanding or needy.
- Make it easy for them. Use tools like Yotpo to auto-email customers after a purchase, and give them a quick link so they can make a review easily.
- Never buy reviews or offer incentives. If word gets out that you’re buying fake reviews (which tend to be pretty transparent and obvious), or even that you are giving incentives or free products in exchange for positive reviews, you will instantly lose all of your credibility. The reviews must be organic for them to have any meaning.
- Carefully select the review sites you want to direct customers to. Review sites should have transparent policies on how they rank and what their financial relationships are with brands.