Depending on your vintage, you may remember a time – not so very long ago, before the explosion of social media. Marketing was different then, the big media channels had a huge part to play. When you couldn’t find what you were looking for through traditional advertising, there were two main alternatives, one was the great big yellow book that lived in every house, the other was asking your network for referrals through word of mouth.
Word of mouth has always played a big part in how we see companies either for good or ill. When our best friend regales us with a story about a business we listen up, knowing that their experience could just as easily be ours.
In the current environment, where people are less likely to trust traditional advertising, as marketers, it makes sense for us to do our best to encourage positive word of mouth marketing among our audience. And what better place to do so, than on social media, the place where sharing is the whole point of the exercise.
Let’s see what steps you can take to attract new customers to your small business through word of mouth on social media.
- Go Back to Basics – Offer Great Service
The basis of word of mouth marketing is that people share positive accounts of their experience. So, before embarking on any fancy campaigns, the best thing you can do today – and every day, is to ensure that the service you offer is the best that it can be. Then showcase this on social media with posts, images, videos, whatever helps you to show just how good you are at what you do.
Do what you do well and do it with a smile! Now, some businesses operate by competing on price rather than on service. If that’s your business model, ensure that while your customers get a great deal with you, they feel great about it afterwards. There are so many ways to create this positive experience and you are best placed to decide how to go about it.
If you’re struggling, get the whole team together with some flip charts and coloured markers and have a super brainstorming session.
- Be a Conversation Starter
Once you’re happy that your business creates positive experiences for your customers on a daily basis, it’s time to start building upon that excellent foundation. This is the part of word of mouth on social media where you get people talking about you. Social media has a whole host of different ways to start a conversation about your brand.
- Getting Topical – weigh in on a holiday, event or issue of concern which is already on people’s minds.
- Asking for Feedback or Suggestions – show how much you value your audience’s opinion, and then follow through with the information you receive!
- Sharing your insights gained by being at the forefront of your industry – your expertise is valuable and sharing it creates a feeling of goodwill among your followers.
- And anything else you can think of!
Remember, for it to work, your posts need to be engaging, topical and informative enough so that they register strongly enough in the brain that someone will think to mention it to someone else.
- Be Consistent
In a world where audiences are unlikely to trust brands that they haven’t gotten to know, consistency is one way to build that much needed trust. Remember that word of mouth works because the recommendation comes from a trusted person, as a business we want to become a trusted source so that when we say we can do something, our audience will believe us.
This goes back to your brand story.
- Who is your business?
- What are your core values?
- What can your audience depend upon more than anything when it comes to your business?
Revisiting your brand values will help you to get clear on how to present yourselves both online and in real life. The hard part is then sticking with it. Consistency and ‘stickability’ are not seen as typically attractive traits, but they are the bones of why your audience trust you over your competitors.
Without consistency, it is unlikely that word of mouth will work for you in the long term. If you’re still not convinced of the importance of being consistent on social media, why not check out this post all about social media strategies.
- Foster an Honest, Transparent Approach
Here’s another step that isn’t always easy to do – but is so worth it for the payoff you can achieve through word of mouth.
There are many social media marketing stories of brands who let their audiences down when a problem arose. Usually what happens is this – a problem rears its ugly head, maybe the brand made a mistake in some of its marketing efforts, perhaps the delivery of service wasn’t what it should have been, either way, a problem has cropped up and now the brand’s audience are getting vocal on social media. A couple of posts appear talking negatively about the brand, word of mouth comes into play and people begin to share them. Then, the business gets nervous, as they see that this problem has the potential to spread, and so they delete the negative comments. They may even restrict posting on a thread, or block users to protect their brand.
We’ve all heard stories like this. It happens a lot on social media. As small business owners and marketers, we can understand why the business may have chosen to shut down the conversation to try and protect their business. However, the reality is that an act such as that does not protect their reputation, not with the people who they have been working hard to build trust with.
If, and when, a problem arises the only responsible and mature way to deal with it is to accept liability, put your hands up and say we made a mistake, we’re sorry and we’ll do our best to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. See, we said it wasn’t easy! You may focus on the cost of repairing the situation and claim that it’s too expensive to do. We counter that it’s too expensive not to do so. Because just as word of mouth both on social media and in real life can reap amazing rewards for your business, it can also destroy it – and this usually happens when trust is broken.
- Create Endlessly Sharable Content
Ok, so you’re still reading – great! Because this is where the fun begins. You’ve done the hard work described in the last few steps, with that foundation secure, you can now play with building those relationships with fun, engaging, viral content.
As social media is supposed to be a fun way for friends and family to socialise with each other, as businesses, we want to fit into this social space in a fluid way. The best way to do this is with content that makes people talk, laugh and debate.
Although, it is a little on the early side to mention this particular example, the John Lewis Christmas advertisement is a case in point. Each year, this company go out of their way to create a Christmas advertisement that will go viral. In 2016, you may remember that there was a spin-off of this ‘Buster the Dog’ ad featuring the candidates of the U.S. presidential election circulating on social media. This shows how social media users, who have no affiliation with the brand in question, took their advertising, related it to something topical and generated huge coverage for the brand in a roundabout way.
You don’t need to have a huge budget to create great content, what you do need are ideas and an in-depth knowledge of your audience base and what will get them excited. Armed with these two elements, you can create content that gets your audience talking in a way that they may never have before.
When you’ve also put in the hard work of building trust and being consistent, your audience will talk about you and the power of word of mouth will start working for your business.