The concept of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing has been around since…well, since we’ve been using mouths to make words. But the explosion of social media networks and review websites over the past decade has made WOM more impactful than ever.
These new platforms provide consumers a mechanism to start or join conversations about their wants, needs, motivations, and opinions any time they want. And they’re taking full advantage of that opportunity. The amount of social interaction is staggering—in fact, I recently saw a post that breaks down what happens on social networks every 60 seconds:
That’s obviously a significant amount of content, but what may surprise you is just how much of it can be traced back to specific consumer experiences.
Consumers turn to social networks and online review sites to share experiences and research brands
Love them or hate them, online reviews and social posts have become a critical step in the purchase decision process. That’s because there’s virtually no avoiding the influence of the ever-expanding social web. Consider this excerpt from a 2015 Forrester report:
79% of US online adults visit a social network website at least monthly. Even for those who don’t explicitly visit social networking sites, anyone who uses the Internet participates in the social Web by searching for information (a search of just about anything returns social content in the first few results), reading product reviews or blogs, or finding information in discussion forums. These interactive channels are an imperative—regardless of your customer base, social media is important to your brand.
- Allison Smith, “Leverage Social Data To Elevate Customer Intelligence”
According to a 2015 study, online reviews impact 67.7% of respondents’ purchasing decisions. And the volume of reviews and visitors to online review sites continues to grow. Yelp has 80 million unique visitors per month and 102 million total reviews as of Q1 2016. The fact that this user-generated content is potentially reaching consumers before they interact with your brand makes it imperative for marketers to make sure they’re keeping a pulse on these sites.
When consumers search your category, what will they find about your brand?
More importantly, will they even find your brand? Online reviews don’t just impact consumer decisions—they also help with a brand’s online visibility. According to a recent Moz study on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a top factor in overall search engine rankings for local businesses is review signals, which include:
You should also consider how search engines prioritize different types of information. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are always striving to make sure their ranking algorithms evaluate sources of information appropriately to keep the most relevant information at the top. And when it comes to local searches, that means there’s a higher emphasis on review content—especially for “geo + brand” or “geo + category” queries (i.e. “Kansas City + pizza”). That presents a huge opportunity for businesses to augment their existing SEO strategies by leveraging the power of online reviews.
There’s a lot of information on social and review sites—but what are brands supposed to do with it?
Most brands have some level of social listening. Typically, these tools live in the marketing department, providing metrics on overall brand health and identifying major service recovery activity. This information is an important part of the overall social intelligence for any organization—but for large multi-unit businesses, there’s an additional need. As we saw earlier, the amount of social data available is massive. That’s why it’s so critical to have an efficient way to turn all of the noise into meaningful, impactful business insights—at the local level.
Unfortunately, not all companies have the processes in place to efficiently curate, analyze, and act on the consumer feedback. Brands need to cut through the social noise to get to the insights that help them inform future strategies and improve operational effectiveness. This new, increasingly pressing business need has shaped our focus on developing a full suite of social tools geared toward helping multi-unit businesses understand and act on social conversations at the location level.
If you’d like to hear more about SMG’s suite of social products, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.