No hidden agenda. One of the primary objectives of social media is to produce advocacy and word of mouth marketing such that real customers promote your product/service to their family, friends, and colleagues. There is no denying the power of having “trusted agents’ stand behind a brand. Are you more likely to value a recommendation of a friend telling you where to go for a great latte or are you more likely to believe the neon sign on the diner window, “World’s Best Coffee” (as Will Farrell did in the movie Elf)?
So it is no surprise that the use of reviews plays a strong role in marketing and customers’ buying decisions. As a brand, you want to give people incentive to take action and write a review on your behalf. The question is, how far can you go before your practices and tactics are considered unethical?
This past week there was an article in the New York Times, “For $2 a Star, an Online Retailer Gets 5-Star Product Reviews.” In that article, Bing Liu, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stated “More people are depending on reviews for what to buy and where to go, so the incentives for faking are getting bigger.” And Mary K. Engle, the Federal Trade Commission’s associate director for advertising practices said that “Advertising disguised as editorial is an old problem, but it’s now presenting itself in different ways … We’re very concerned.”
Yes – bogus and deceitful reviews are immoral, unethical and downright wrong. But there is nothing wrong with giving your customers an incentive to post a review so long as you are not manipulating what they say. You want to know how a brand can drive a positive review. Pretty simple. Deliver an awesome product or service. This is the most important factor for success and likely to produce winning reviews. And if you are really doing that why not put some incentive in place? Let me give you two real scenarios…
A number of years ago, I headed up a mainframe product line. We sold high-end computers (7 figure price tag) to corporate enterprises. A B2B play. When it came to final negotiations, the client would always beat us up on price. As they would whittle us down, the final agreement was usually, “OK, we’ll give you x% discount if you agree to do a press release with us.” In other words, the final price was agreed to with the addition of advocacy. The client would agree to state something like “we selected ___ because of their stellar product.”
My second example highlights a word of mouth play by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Now we all know that Zappos is the poster child for customer support. This is because Tony has the greatest appreciation for customer interfacing to the benefit of both the customer and his brand. When Tony released his book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” he offered the book for free to anyone that had an active blog, some traffic to their site, and were willing to write a review. No influence on what they said about the book, just a gentlemen’s agreement to write a review. (You can read my review at “Delivering Happiness – The Key to a Great Company.”)
So why shouldn’t a company offer their customer a discount or rebate to write a review after purchase? It is going a step too far if you ask them to write something specifically, but a simple request to write their objective review makes much sense.
In a world where buyers are looking for input and according to Hubspot, people are 71% likely to purchase when referred by social media, “marketing reviews” is a win-win for the consumer and the brand (assuming the brand really has something compelling and valuable to offer). This should turn into regular concept and regular practice.
So I have no problem working with brands to put in place a strategy that is aimed at production of product/service reviews and increasing word of mouth marketing. Any reason why you would not do the same?
Make It Happen!