Though People Trust Other Consumers Most, Brands Still Have A Role To Play
While word-of-mouth marketing has been around forever, contributor Katy Keim explores how social media has changed it dramatically -- and how brands must adjust.
Word-of-mouth has always been a powerful tool, but it was limited by proximity — until the last decade. The onset of social media allowed word-of-mouth to span the distance, causing a shift in who has the greatest influence when it comes to purchase decisions.
As recently as 15 years ago, those with authority were advertisers and marketers. Consumers used to learn about new products from commercials or billboards and would make a purchase decision based on what they saw or read.
Today, however, we live in a relationship-driven economy, and consumers’ perception of advertising has shifted. According to WOMMapedia, 92% of consumers globally now trust family and friends over advertissers.
Additionally, consumers are now comfortable seeking advice from distant strangers who have built credibility and an online reputation as knowledgeable resources for various topics.
This shift to peer-to-peer trust, combined with the growth of various social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, was a wake-up call for companies to provide consumers with an online space dedicated to their thoughts and opinions.
The Community Approach
Today’s innovative brands look at ways to build on the power of reviews and improve the customer peer-to-peer experience by gathering people in online social communities.
As a member of a brand’s social community, consumers interact, learn from each other and quickly identify those peers that have credible experience and expertise with the brand’s products and services.
Sephora’s BeautyTalk is a prime example. The brand created an online community where users can share information like product tips or reviews with like-minded consumers.
With over 1 million monthly page views, Beauty Talk reveals how brands are seeking to cultivate spaces for social engagement with consumers.
The rapid increase in online community engagement as part of a company’s CRM strategy also demonstrates how businesses now comprehend the value of developing an individualized relationship with the consumer. Consumers enjoy sharing their opinion, positive or negative.
Public social media gives us the power to rapidly boost or harm a brand’s reputation. (In fact, 51% of consumers aim to influence others when expressing their preferences online.)
Brands understand this. While companies originally sought to control what was said about their brands, they are now creating those online social communities to provide an outlet for consumers to share their thoughts and sentiments.
Consumers have realized the power behind these communities and are using them to create relationships not only between those with shared interests, but also with the brands. This consumer-brand relationship builds the most crucial element in the purchase process: trust.
A Balancing Act
While these online communities can be valuable resources for discovering new information or maintaining brand relationships and communication, the amount of data consumers are inundated with on a daily basis can be overwhelming.
With the growing complexity of data, consumers need a way to easily find trusted recommendations and peer experts that can inspire confident buying decisions.
In light of this, brands are seeking ways to provide consumers with methods to measure credibility and discern where to find consumer expertise. One method is employing social analytics tools to discern which community members have the most knowledge and the greatest influence regarding particular topics.
These influencers are recognized by their passion and expertise on specific topics. Using such tools to gauge the degree of expertise among social networks enables brands and consumers to quickly drill down and find like-minded peers with similar interests.
By leveraging innovative tools such as participating in a brand’s online community and utilizing social media analytics platforms, consumers can readily access credible data tailored to their individual interests — making purchasing decisions simpler, more convenient and more confident.
The individual consumer owns the power in driving trust and consumer expertise. Smart brands value such influence by making peer- to-peer interaction and recommendations easy, fun and the “new normal” of how consumers make trusted purchasing decisions.