Building “Word of Mouth” in the Digital Age

May 22, 2013by hiebing2021

Nielsen’s most recent Global Trust in Advertising Survey confirms what most of us already know, that “92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family”.  Why is word-of-mouth such a reliably potent form of informational influence?  Psychologists would attribute this behavior to “social proof”, a phenomenon whereby decision makers with incomplete or ambiguous information, choose to assume that surrounding people possess more knowledge than they do. If you’d like to start leveraging this powerful form of persuasion on your website, here are a few effective tactics to consider.

Product Reviews and Ratings

In that same Nielsen study, 70% of respondents said they trust consumer opinions posted online.  While not as powerful as word-of-mouth from friends and family, adding credible product reviews to websites help consumers transition from consideration to action.   Adding reviews is a no-brainer for mass market retailers like Amazon but brands can also benefit by prominently featuring positive feedback (attained from letters, comments on social media, etc.) as testimonials prominently featured on their website. Brands may also want to explore working with other types of influencers, such as bloggers and micro-celebrities in their niche.

Social Proof in Copy

In similar fashion, copywriters can work positive social proof into calls to action and points of differentiation.  Adding social proof to the claim “save money” would look something like “78% of your neighbors are already saving money”.

Social Expressions Near Products offers visitors a chance to declare their “Love” for Subaru models. lets their visitors “Want” a Bleeker Slim Brief, and countless other websites simply let visitors “Like” a product, article or page.  These “social expressions” are then automatically distributed to Facebook’s news feed so that the visitor’s friends see a social story such as “Jessica Wants the Bleecker Slim Brief from”. Social expressions in effect help distribute and scale positive word-of-mouth via social networks. They also bake in positive social proof on your product pages just as consumers are formulating opinions and purchase decisions.

Social Ads

These “social stories” can further be further amplified using Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad units.  These ad units look very similar to organic social stories but as paid media, appear at a potentially greater reach and frequency that you can control through bidding, targeting and budget. Of course brands should holistically consider the full range of earned, owned and paid media options that speak to their target.  Automating word-of-mouth using technology and amplifying it’s effects using sponsored social stories is simply one more way to deliver your brand’s message to it’s intended audience – this time through the validation of their friends and trusted sources.

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