Are online reviews the forgotten social media channel?

Posted on March 8, 2013

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Italyhotel

We spend a lot of time strategizing for our community management clients about how to increase engagement on a variety of channels – we recommend Facebook strategies, devise innovative Instagram contests and run promoted tweet campaigns. We’ve even jumped in head first to Google Hangouts On Air and LinkedIn groups.

Sure, sometimes our call to action is “write a review,” but more often than not, it’s about posting a comment, liking, becoming a fan or retweeting something. Are social marketers missing a trick without a clear strategy for online reviews?

2012 study concluded, “72% of consumers surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” Now, with improvements to social search algorithms, there’s an overlap between personal and anonymous online reviews as well as word of mouth recommendations. In doing research for an upcoming vacation on Airbnb and Trip Advisor, I could easily see where my friends – and friends of friends – have stayed and how they rated the hotel or apartment.

For example, as I conducted my search for hotels in Italy, a pop-up told me that my Facebook friend Sean was also friends with the host of an Airbnb apartment in Rome; and that a friend of my friend Kelly had rated a Venice hotel with 5 stars on Trip Advisor.  That certainly swayed my opinion in the travel market and would have a similar impact if I was looking for a new phone, laptop or fitness gadget. Because I know Bite London’s digital marketing guru @jonsilk is a big fan of fitness gadgets, if his review of the Fitbit pops up on my search for a pedometer, I’m more likely to check it out.

Another 2012 report from Econsultancy showed that 31% of consumers had read an online review before making a purchase, where just 6% had sought advice from social media. As social media marketers then, there’s a huge opportunity to use our social engagement efforts to encourage satisfied consumers, who are engaged with us on social media to write positive reviews. A consumer’s Facebook fan status and the number of times they retweet us is beneficial in other ways – increasing awareness, for example – but if we want our advocates to have a real business impact, proclaiming their love for us on Amazon.com might be the best way to influence future buyers.

What if – instead of running a gadget giveaway with Engadget or an owned Facebook page – a consumer electronics manufacturer offered an incentive for online reviews instead? It could be as simple as getting news of the next product announcement earlier than their peers or as complex as product discounts and loyalty points. You’d want authentic feedback, so you’d have to confront negative reviews as part of the process, but you’d have a real engagement avenue to consumers and future fans — and a resource they could trust.

Have you asked your biggest fans to review your product/service yet? If not, what’s holding you back?

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Posted in: Marketing