You’d be hard pressed to find a marketer or merchandiser today who doubts the value of online reviews in the purchase decision. If you’re one of the skeptical 10%, see for yourself what 90% of consumers say.
If you’re one of the 90% still reading, you get to consider higher order questions, such as the impact of negative and positive sentiment in reviews specifically and social media generally.
In the beginning, reputation monitoring and social media management traditionally acted as insurance—limiting the downside from negative comments or reviews.
Insurance is still the dominant narrative. Reputation.com defends clients from “misleading articles, disproven allegations, and false claims. ” Vendasta will “protect against potential PR disasters [and] ensure that employees aren’t misrepresenting a brand.”
A new advocacy group
More recently, a leading edge of companies takes a rosier view, and looks to brand promoters. They see brand advocates as champions who can deliver a company’s message through authentic recommendations and brand stories. And they cite findings such Keller Fay’s that 62% of conversational brand mentions are purely positive and only 10% are purely negative.
These companies include Zuberance, which surveys customers and helps the most satisfied ones share their sentiment on social media and reviews sites. Influitive and EngageSciences gamify advocacy with leaderboards where those who share company content or refer leads earn higher social capital scores. Evocalize integrates survey data with measurements of social influence to create detailed customer profiles, encourage sharing, and find look-alikes.
And, buyer beware, some have even jumped in with gray hat techniques, such as eLance’s referral service for hiring freelance social media promoters.
Social ROI is notoriously hard to measure, but white hat social advocacy companies profess to drive performance. Zuberance generated over 100,000 referrals in less than 30 days for a leading consumer electronics company. Evocalize clients have seen 9% lift in sales conversion. In the B2B market, Influitive helped Act-On grow $175,000 in pipeline through an advocate campaign.
Technologists and practitioners of brand advocacy draw inspiration from classic books like The Ultimate Question, which coined Net Promoter Score (NPS) and demonstrated that companies that harnessed promoters grew twice as fast as competitors.
More to the point, author Rob Fuggueta writes in Brand Advocates about how to turn Promoters into a powerful marketing force.
Negative sentiment cannot be ignored. Companies can protect their reputations with an empathetic response. But another way to raise your standing is to shift the conversation to your strengths. eMarketer says 1 in 4 adults, 60 million people, are brand advocates. Do not miss the opportunity to harness that high regard. The vendors mentioned above (N.B.: and in the comments, too) can help you capitalize.
What do you see as a more influential social force? Detractors or Promoters?