Online influence can take many forms, the most well-known being Celebrity Influencers, Employee Advocacy and Micro-Influencers (click here for more on influencers). In this article, though, we are going to look at one form of influence that is not talked about as often, namely, Customer Influence. More specifically, we discuss the power of customer influence for your brand.
The Power of Customer Influence
What makes something trend online? A high level of online engagement (likes, shares, comments) by people. What turns something into an online crisis? Widespread negative sentiment, again, by people online. This illustrates the power that customer influence has on a brand’s image online. This, in turn, effects business results such as sales and customer retention. Customer influence is closely linked to the Customer Experience (or CX) approach which is increasingly becoming the primary focus of business strategies across all industries.
| Quick Stat: 61% of consumers said they would be more likely to research a product or service recommended on social by a friend [Sprout]
Types of Customer Influence
Online activity can take the form of both unpaid and paid influence:
>> Unpaid influence is simply users voicing their feelings about a product, service or brand. This could be either positive or negative, based on their own experiences. Some users will comment on a brand’s business pages while others may post on their own pages either recommending or trashing a brand to their own network.
>> Paid influence is when a brand enlists the services of a micro influencer to post positive messages about the brand, usually via their social media pages. For example, a new mother raving about a baby product brand. Since the influencer is not an actual celebrity or brand ambassador, the messages appear to be their own personal opinions. Also, such messages are posted organically and don’t have the tell-tale “sponsored” tab that accompanies typical paid advertising.
Importance of Customer Influence
Quite frankly, customer influence could potentially make or break a business. People tend to react more strongly to posts from their contacts or trusted sources over brand-based messaging. Large scale negative sentiment on social media often leads to a crisis that could seriously harm a brand’s reputation. On the other hand, happy customers generate a brilliant form of word-of-mouth marketing on social media (aka marketing-on-steroids). This not only boosts business goals like sales, but ever-important positive brand affinity as well.
| Quick Stat: According to a study done by Forbes, 81% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts [Social Media Today]
How to Drive Positive Customer Influence
It’s a no-brainer: simply provide great service and products to your clients both online and offline. It’s all about creating an excellent experience throughout the client’s entire journey with the brand. From a social media perspective, here are some ways to boost positive customer sentiment:
User-centric content: Post good quality, engaging content that has high user value, like blog articles, tips and how-to guides. Such content is likely to delight users. User reaction to content will indicate what your audience likes best (or doesn’t care for).
Be adaptable: Take your cues from your customer, and adapt content and/or service based on their demands. This may mean adding or removing posts. Effectively manage online conversations for maximum client satisfaction.
Be responsive: Respond to client queries quickly and professionally. Remember, people often turn to social media after failing to get service via telephone or email. Even a complaint can be transformed to a positive experience for the customer if handled efficiently (click to read more). Engage with your clients when it comes to positive feedback, “likes”, etc.
Crisis Management: Have a process and plan in place to tackle negative commentary before it becomes a crisis. In the unfortunate event that it does, have an available network of experts at hand to mitigate risk. Read more…
Use paid micro-influencers: Use carefully selected micro-influencers that are relevant to your brand and audience. Ensure that they are well vetted, and that all content is approved before publishing.
Employee Amplification: Assist your company employees to be active on social media on behalf of your brand. Provide them with digital tools and resources to share on their social media pages should they come across a relevant question or query. Also, support them to report and provide feedback on negative online commentary. Read more….
Basically, people will complain about poor service, and rave about excellence. Social media typically amplifies and extends these messages. The key to driving positive customer influence is to constantly and consistently exceed expectations. Ensure that your social media content and platforms are managed by experienced and skilled social media specialists to help you achieve this.
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