Dec 2, 2016

A new, powerful twist on customer testimonials

A new, powerful twist on customer testimonials
BY Peggy Nordeen

B2B | SFBJ | Social

Reprinted from South Florida Business Journal.

For marketers who have produced ads containing case histories and customer testimonials for years, it comes as no surprise that user-generated content via social media, comments on blogs and product reviews are so powerful. What is surprising are the results companies that have concentrated on UGC are seeing.

One recent and memorable business case is T-Mobile’s break-up letter campaign earlier this year. The offer was simple: T-Mobile offered to pay termination fees for customers who submitted a letter about breaking up with their current providers in exchange for T-Mobile service. T-Mobile reports that more than 80,000 people participated by posting break-up letters on a variety of social networks.

Turn UGC into business today

That’s not only building trust over time, it’s turning UGC into business today. As one of the social engagement experts I interviewed told me: “Brands are fishing for 2 to 5 seconds of visitors’ time online. Instead of fishing, they should be talking, laughing and promoting real experiences.”

No marketing tactic “stands alone.” The foundation for the brand experience is still anchored in the perception of brand quality and customer service, as well as the friendly, sincere approach to announcing its promotional offerings to target audiences. But as brands and politicians are proving in recent years, it’s becoming less and less important what “you say about yourself” and more and more important “what is said about you.”

Satisfy interests and desires long term

The lesson from T-Mobile and others is to discover the underlying interests and desires of your customer target as it relates to your brand and the competition. Promotions like this usually take advantage of knowledge gained from interaction with customers on a variety of social platforms. Vine, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram are all skewed to different audiences with different interests. And, because of the different audience types that use these platforms, determining the interests of each audience is the first step in creating a targeted approach.

The next step is satisfying those interests and desires through highly targeted social contests and offerings that allow customers to be creative and have fun while establishing closer bonds with your brand or organization. The results are monitored not only in terms of impact on your business, but also the impact on your reputation.

The negative response is an opportunity

Good reviews will not only increase sales, but also increase your SEO on relevant product pages on your website and provide “social proof” of value. However, don’t delete negative comments. Instead, take advantage of the opportunity to address concerns and show that your organization truly cares.

In addition to extending your business’s customer service connection, UGC provides the kind of trust and familiarity that breeds loyalty. Not all members of their audiences like everything Howard Stern, Jon Stewart or Laura Ingraham say every day, but they keep coming back because they have come to “know them and like them.” The more your customers know the brand, including how your organization responds to negative comments, the more familiar your brand becomes and the more opportunity you will have to become an iconic brand like these personalities.

Simple ways to ramp up UGC

Starting the conversation isn’t difficult. Turn on the comments feature on your blog. Ask your customers for online reviews of your product or service. Respond to all blog comments and any negative reviews you receive in positive and caring ways, in keeping with the personality of your brand.

If no one on your staff can perform this function, then either hire or outsource. Your conversation with your customer base is too important to do without priority and focus. Things happen quickly in this open, living platform that is an ongoing interaction with your target customers and prospects. Even if you buy software to alert you to negative comments, someone at your firm needs to be responsive.

A great UGC program can make all of your brand communication programs more successful and your customers more loyal – definitely a competitive advantage.