How Social Verification leverages the power of customers to grow businesses

HOW SOCIAL VERIFICATION LEVERAGES THE POWER OF CUSTOMERS TO GROW BUSINESSES - Ben M Roberts

Since I introduced you all the Social Verification in one of my previous posts I have received a number of questions about it. Which firstly is awesome, but secondly also a little concerning. Not because people were criticising my theory of Social Verification, but my concern is from the questions which read something like “I still don’t really get it. What makes it more important than anything else?”

At first I naturally wanted to protect my work, then I thought hang on, if these few people don’t get Social Verification, then there will be many others who also don’t. Therefore, in this article I am going to put Social Verification in a context that makes sense. I am going to break it down into a formula that can be applied across various industries, and I am going to show you the importance that Social Verification can have on your business and your success.

The re-definition

“The process of customers openly and socially proving the validity of a business/individual, through a range of communication mediums, which the business/individual can then use as public proof” 

– Social Verification

One thing I learnt from my previous article was that although the definition of Social Verification is strong, people were struggling with a way to apply it. It seemed too that a number of readers didn’t quite understand what Social Verification was made up of. In short, people could see what it was and what the goal was, but really there was no meat in the sandwich.

Well here is your meat . . .

Social Verification = Communities + Ratings and Reviews + Brand Advocates

In order to have a successful Social Verification strategy you need to have a three prong approach. Each prong will help you and/or your business create and display public proof to new and potential customers.

How communities contribute

Communities are the first aspect of Social Verification, and they are really core to the success of the strategy. Both in terms of online and offline channels, but also in home-grown communities Vs established communities.

Communities are groups of individuals who share the same or similar beliefs. An example I learnt about recently comes from a Marketing agency called Equinox Communications. They run a Facebook page on behalf of one of their brands which focusses on teachers. They have built this community from the ground up and created a positive platform for conversations about that brand. This community can then be used to as a base to showcase new products or services.

Because of they way in which communities work, people share and talk about things that interest them and things that will interest the wider community. If your brand is the subject to one of those conversations you could potentially lose or gain a big number of potential customers. These aren’t just random customers either, these are people who have shown interest in the industry, cause, or products you have.

By being part of the community you can monitor what is being said about your brand, you can then reply and interact with the people inside the community. Depending on what you wish your role to be in the community you can then be a conversation starter, and actively drive conversations about things related to (but not necessarily directly about) your brand.

Communities can take a huge number of forms, from email subscribers, to Facebook groups, meetings in community centres to podcast listeners. I’m not going to BS you and say (x) is more important than (y) because it’s hugely dependent on your business goals and the customers you want to attract. What is clear though is that you need to be where your customers are.

The importance of Ratings and Reviews

According to a 2015 survey by BrightLocal “87% of Potential Customers Won’t Consider Businesses With Low Ratings”, and the “80% Of Consumers Trust Online Reviews As Much As Personal Recommendations”. These are big percentages and aren’t stats that are out of line with any other of the reports I’ve really seen on the subject. At a glance they really help showcase the power ratings and reviews have.

Because of the importance reviews have, quite frankly if you don’t have third party validation and you don’t actively encourage your customers to review you then you are missing out.

Third party validation is so important because it gives a level of independence to the reviews left. Gone are the days that a testimonials page on your website with specially selected quotes off only your best customers was enough. These days, transparency and openness are at the heart of trust.

Another statistic I want to throw at you is that “Only 13% Of Consumers Will Consider Using A Business That Has A 1- Or 2-Star Rating”. This means if you offer poor service, and those customers who review you only leave 1/2 star ratings it’s only going to have a negative impact on your business. If you are regularly getting 1 and 2 star ratings then I suggest a re-evaluation of your business could in order. That is unless your model is in no way focussed on customer service, and instead looks at a ‘stack them high and and sell them cheap’ way of business.

If you are a business that has generally good reviews and decent customer service but gets a random one star review, DON’T PANIC. This can sometimes be a good thing as it shows you are human and that your reviews are real. Instead of panicking, consider how you will reply instead. You should always do some sort of public reply, which should include and apology and some empathy depending on the review of course. You should then offer to take the conversation offline to resolve if required.

Empathy and apology can turn critics into fans. Use a negative situation and turn it on it’s head. Because those who have reviewed you have gone out their way to get their opinion heard, so you too should go out your way to help make amends (as long as it’s relevant).

Advocates are your greatest allies

Brand advocates are non-paid fans who actively and willingly share your companies messages and promote your business to their networks. These are the guys who provide not only free promotion but a sense of trust too. Because they aren’t paid to tell people about the brand they are more trusted by potential customers. These guys and girls will amplify the messages you put out and will sing your praises, and even contribute to improving your business. According to Branderati (http://branderati.com/the-age-of-advocacy-and-influence-26-stats-marketers-should-know/) “Brand advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them” and “Brand advocates (28%) are 4X as likely as non-advocates (7%) to share information abo­­­ut products, brands, sales or stores online”. Getting these people onside to sing your brands praises and share your messages are integral to the success of Social Verification.

Tying all of this together in a Social Verification Strategy

This three prong approach to Social Verification isn’t a quick fix to a companies problems. It isn’t going to be an overnight money maker, and it isn’t a stop gap.

Social Verification is a marketing strategy that leverages to power of customers through communities, reviews and advocacy in order to grow your business.

To start your Social Verification strategy you need to firstly discover where your customers are and begin engaging with them in their communities. You need to start building a a ratings and reviews hub, preferably though a 3rd party source for independence. As you engage and interact with your communities and collect these reviews you will be able to start identifying potential advocates. The final stage is them mobilising these advocates to become ‘true fans’ and share your messages.

This is Social Verification. This is how you can use the power of your fans and customers to significantly grow your business.

Interested in knowing more?

Agree or disagree? Want to know more? Please feel free to get in contact with me on here or leave a comment :)

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