In our never-ending quest to increase conversion rates and revenue, we often focus on web design and offers, and overlook the power of customer reviews. In truth, no amount of advertising or tweeting can impact customers the way an objective peer review can. This is because, in this age of social media and online reviews, what you say about your business is important; what people say about you matters even more.
So, How Important are Online Reviews to Consumers?
According to BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey 2013,
- 85% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
- Lifestyle businesses attract the most searches including restaurants and clothes shops
- 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more
- 65% of consumers are more likely to use a business which has positive online reviews
- 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
These findings provide unequivocal evidence of the growing influence of online reviews on the purchasing habits of people. Nowadays more and more consumers are consulting reviews as a first step in their pre-purchase research of local businesses.
These stats are self-explanatory as to why small businesses need customer reviews. Put quite simply, user reviews increase conversions. They can eliminate doubts potential customers may have about a particular product or service or they can help the process of product selection.
The SEO Benefits of Reviews
Improved conversion rates and overall customer experience are among the most obvious reasons for encouraging customer reviews but let’s not forget the considerable SEO benefits as well.
1. Customer reviews generate fresh and unique content for the search engines.
2. Improved rankings for the name of your products plus the word ‘review’ or related words such as ‘ratings’.
3. Reviews can sometimes serve as rich snippets to help increase click throughs from the search engine results pages.
4. And content generated by user reviews increases your chances of ranking well for long tail keywords.
The term “expert” is thrown out rather carelessly these days. This may be the result of sites like LivePerson, which allow anyone to sign up as an “expert” in a pre-determined category. Sites like these are often lax when it comes to verifying credentials. Social media marketing gurus are abound, possibly because it’s relatively easy to amass a following on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Whether or not these social media mavericks built their following legitimately is immaterial. There’s more to being a social media expert than having thousands of followers.
What’s more, any number of Internet marketing forums provide these individuals with a soap box upon which they can spout their pearls of wisdom. Sites like these create an environment in which people can declare “best practices” and strategies “guaranteed” to increase engagement. Whether these individuals are experts or not can be difficult to determine. If your colleagues are getting a bit full of themselves, you can take them down a peg with a simple social media audit. But first, it’s helpful to be completely clear as to what being a social media marketer is all about.
What a Social Media Marketing Expert Actually Does
A social media marketing expert will have a firm grip on the field. It’s a rough and tumble work environment, and an expert will always be focused on these goals:
- Gleaning demographic data from their client’s audience in order to understand their wants and needs and to grow the base
- Constantly promoting content via content marketing, advertising, guest posting and link building
- Driving engagement and promoting sharing via the major social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Flickr and Linkedin – each network requires a different strategy and attracts a different “crowd”
- Effectively and efficiently driving traffic to a specific landing page to grow brand awareness
- Cultivating strong ties to niche influencers
Perhaps the most important aspect of the job is the ability to create true engagement with the target audience. Anyone can get followers, but an expert has the ability and know-how to connect with any group of people. He or she has the ability to find out what the audience is passionate about. The expert understands that passion drives engagement and formulates a social engagement plan accordingly.
The Mark of a Professional
First, though, it might be helpful to slap a definition on “expert.” Many professionals consider an expert someone who has specialized knowledge that isn’t easily obtained. In the Old World—the world before 2003 or so—you could easily determine whether someone was an expert by looking at their academic history. No longer. These days, high school and college dropouts make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and run corporations. Still, there are a few indicators of a true social media marketing expert that you can look for. It’s helpful to look past their social media profiles in the beginning and focus on a few other areas:
- Do they have a blog? A social media marketing expert will most certainly have their own Web real estate with a large following. Their blog should be active, with lots of comments and other forms of engagement.
- Do they understand content marketing? Do they use their blog to promote other people’s products, and if so, do they do it well? Their posts should be devoid of the hard sell. They should understand the value of providing well-written, useful content. Their focus should be on building their list and not on selling individual products.
- Are they good with people? Do they respond to comments, and if so, are they helpful? Do you get a sense that they’re a real person, or are they stiff and robotic?
- Do they drive engagement with images, video and infographics? A social media marketing expert will understand the importance of giving the people what they want.
In 2014, public relations are as much about conversing with customers on a one-on-one basis as it is about releasing press releases. Companies have traditionally relied on this form of media to give them a face, or public image.
Today, however, social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest provide a platform with which you can interact directly with your customers. This is an extraordinary opportunity, as it gives you the chance to show consumers that you’re more than a faceless corporation. Now more than ever, consumers want to know that they can reach you at a moment’s notice, and more importantly, they expect to be able to.
When you speak to your consumers, remember that you’re speaking to your audience. Your message isn’t buffered by the media. Be germane and up front at all times. Keep your messages concise, but friendly, and always address customer questions directly. Consumers are extremely sensitive to “the run around.” Additionally, when you engage with your customers via social media, your consumers expect the Who, What, Where and How, but they crave to be given this information by a familiar face.
One of the main advantages of supplementing your normal PR efforts with a consistent social media presence is that the interest you generate can help feed traffic created by your normal press releases. With this in mind, you should avoid bombarding your audience with a constant barrage of messages. Create a posting schedule, and plan to release more messages when you post your press releases. This will help you avoid exhausting your audience. This is especially important for businesses, as consumers will already assume that they’re trying to drum up business.
Embrace Brand Journalism
According to Roper Public Affairs, a series of articles can be more effective than a press release or any number of advertisements. In fact, 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to learn more about a product or service through articles than through advertisements. While the press release will always be an important PR tool, you shouldn’t overlook the power of brand journalism, or content marketing, as marketers call it.
Brand journalism, put simply, is the practice of cutting out the middle man—the press—and instead speaking directly to customers. A risky venture, for sure, but if done correctly, you can generate massive brand awareness and trust. One powerful strategy entails creating a series of articles that expound on the content within a planned press release, and then promoting them via social media as the press release goes live. It’s important to note, however, that these articles should be information oriented. Don’t use them to hard-promote your product or service. Instead, use them to illustrate to your readers that you’re an authority in your niche.
Niche authority is one of the most powerful assets that you can possess, and unfortunately, you can’t create it with a press release alone. When consumers consider you an authority in your niche, they’ll be more willing to expose themselves to your products. This in turn, gives you a much higher chance of snagging the conversion. Being an authority renders PR much easier, as well. A strong blog and social media presence gives you the opportunity to tackle rumors and slurs head on. Early adopters of brand journalism include P&G, Cisco Systems, John Deere and Microsoft. These companies have brought on journalists to power their own websites, and they’re reaching customers directly with stories that blur the line between ad and news story.
5 Social Networks & Apps Businesses are Getting Creative On (Other Than Facebook, Twitter, G+ & Pinterest)
In 2014, some 73% of online adults use a social networking site of some kind. Facebook remains the platform of choice but according to a study by Pew Research Center, a striking number of users are now also diversifying to other platforms with some 42% of online adults using multiple social networking sites simultaneously.
As a business, you want to be where your customers are. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are obvious social networks you should be using to increase your business reach and impact but there are other popular social networks out there that you are neglecting and that can potentially do your business a lot of good.
For one, millions of people from all over the world use Tumblr every month to find, follow, and share information. Tumblr is the perfect social network empowering businesses to create content and get it in front of the audience they deserve. By all accounts, Tumblr gives you a means to create a brand identity you can be proud of and tell your story using any number of media including pictures, animation, text, music, video, and more.
– 125k new users sign up on Tumblr every day
– There are 140M blogs on Tumblr
– With 63B posts
All you have to do to tap into this traffic is sign up on the social networking site (a process that takes under 30 seconds) and you can create content and engage with the very active Tumblr community by being an authentic member. How you tell your story on Tumblr is entirely up to you. Tumblr also makes it super easy for businesses to syndicate content across the web and other networks.
Instagram is unlike any other platform. The single focus of this social network is captivating imagery and this gives brands an avenue for rich visual storytelling. How you tell the story of your brand is what makes you unique. Instagram, in turn, promises:
– An engaged community; Instagramers are passionate about the platform.
– A visual medium where captivating imagery takes the center stage
– And a beautiful and inspiring environment
– Instagram boasts 200M active monthly users
– With 65% of those users being outside the United States
– 60M photos are shared on the network everyday
– That generate 1.6B likes
Effective communication is never a one-way street. Perhaps this explains the popularity of social media with businesses. Marketing methods used in the past have not been very conducive to back and forth discussions, have they? But social media, that’s a different story. Social media marketing actually thrives on interaction and engagement between a business and its customers. The challenge is to make people feel valued. In social media, you acknowledge the needs and desires of your audience and work towards fulfilling them. More often than not though, getting the conversational ball rolling is easier envisaged than done.
So how can a business increase its Facebook Page engagement?
We’ll get to that in a minute but first, let’s cover how much traffic you can expect from Facebook.
– Facebook has over 1.5 billion users worldwide
– 699 million people log on Facebook everyday
– 700 billion minutes is spent on Facebook every month
With the right marketing strategy, you can tap into that traffic.
1. Posts with Less than 80 Characters Get More Engagement
When it comes to marketing on Facebook, you want your business messages to be short and succinct. Don’t take forever to get to the point and avoid overly long or complex messages. These lessen engagement rates. People don’t want to “read more”.
2. Using Emoticons and Images Increases Comments
Photos and graphic content tend to generate more comments and likes than any other type of content and that includes videos and status updates. So, to increase your Facebook engagement, how about you figure your way around Photoshop and have fun with images. Rather than posting a status update, how about you convert the message into an image or an infographic?
3. Questions Generate More Engagement
Making some of your Facebook posts interactive, for example, by asking a question or posting a “fill in the blank” style post will increase your Facebook engagement. The audience on Facebook reacts extremely well to little quizzes and trivia-type questions. This is a sure-fire way to get people to connect with your business.