Arguably the most advanced, i.e. the most effective form of social proof is word of mouth – and the great thing about online word of mouth is that it can be controlled and streamlined to a much greater extent.
WOM for brands can have a ripple effect, especially if the initial word comes from a person with a great amount of social capital. This “influencer” endorses the product through their own social channels, their family and friends decide it must be worth checking out, the effect begins snowballing and suddenly its popularity and your brand’s trust values begin hitting new highs.
Reaching out to influencers can be achieved through your own research, but this has been made much easier in recent years, with the advent of specifically-created platforms and influencer “collectives” that serve to matches brands with online Influencers. There are software solutions that provide multi channel support by connecting you with influencers who use multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Blogger.
A platform is a sort of a virtual marketplace, where influencers list their required compensation and brands list their needs and available budgets. A savvy online influencer will know which brand fits his or hers online persona and their audience, skipping the gigs which may not be seen as authentic endorsements and which ultimately do not interest or benefit their online followers. So don’t be put off by an influencer saying no to your request – chances are they know much better then you if the endorsement would result in positive feedback for both them and your brand or product.
Alternatively, you can search for appropriate influencers yourself. For this, you need to research your customers’ online behavior and identify who they follow and who influences your specific segment. If you are active on social media, you probably already know who are the big shots in your industry or who is a known user of similar products.
In order to get the best out of this you could round up all the online influencers you’ve identified for an interview or call them up to do guest posts on your platform. For starters, try simply following them, commenting on their posts and interacting with them on their social media channels – you will get noticed and get on their good side, making them more likely to react positively to your requests for product reviews or brand endorsement. Of course, freebies and some special offers can only help in this regard. We’re not saying they are mandatory, but they are certainly expected of you – and rightfully so!
If you do this diligently and tactfully, you are well on your way towards recruiting one or more Brand Evangelist that can do much more for your sales than thousands of dollars spent on advertising.