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How to become the most talked about, recommended and chosen…

Submitted by on June 27, 2013 – 10:56 amNo Comment

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We have a guest blog today from Joshua Hammond.   Joshua Hammond is a VP, director of marketing and new business development at Zócalo Group. Zócalo Group is an award-winning word-of-mouth, social and digital marketing agency focused on one thing: To help our clients become the most talked about, recommended and chosen brands in their category.

Over the past few years, most successful businesses and prominent organizations have rushed to accumulate fans, followers, likes and other ephemeral indicators of social media success. These key performance indicators (KPIs) satisfied practitioners and their managers for a time, but brands soon become more sophisticated and began to ask for more from these growing communications channels.

Early last year, AdAge Digital posed the following question: “Brands have been touting frothy Facebook Like numbers… but how many of those fans are actually bothering to take part in conversation with brands?” AdAge proceeded to cite a troubling study from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute which found that only 1% of Facebook fans actually engage with brands online.

In short, businesses had accumulated significant audiences, but were struggling with how to activate these supposedly engaged consumers. Brands were going through the regular motions of managing their brands online, while never truly understanding what they were working toward.

According to Nielsen and Roper Reports, “92% of people say that the recommendation from a friend, family member, colleague or expert is the single most powerful determinant of their purchase decision.” This overwhelming stat should be a clarion call for authors, brands and not-for-profit organizations. When it comes to managing your brand online, focus on the recommendation. Nothing is more powerful.

‘Fans’, ‘Followers’ and ‘Likes’ are all important and provide an easy and quantitative way for you to keep score, but nothing is more important than getting people – whether explicitly though their words, or implicitly through their actions – to recommend your book, your brand or your organization.

So how do you cultivate recommendations? Here’s the answer in 6 foundational steps:

  • Know – It is absolutely essential that you know where, when and how your brand and competitors are being talked about and recommended. Using social listening tools, it’s critical that you understand what circumstances drive people to make these recommendations and the literal language they use when making a recommendation.
  • Plan – The next step is to formalize your “Sharable Story” to determine how you want your brand talked about and recommended. This document should be written in conversational language and should ideally be tested on your target audience. The goal of the Sharable Story exercise is to develop simple, conversational language that a brand advocate might literally use in a conversation with a friend or family member. Hokey marketing tag lines need not apply.You will then want to develop a plan to maximize the communications impact of your new sharable messaging. Your efforts online need to activate potential customers at every steps of the sales funnel:

Awareness: Ensure that your target audience knows about your brand
Engagement: Spark conversation and interaction with the brand to boost consideration
Action: Create experiences that drive trial, sales and loyalty
Recommendation: Turn consumers into active brand advocates

  • Identify – You’ll then need to identify and engage the people whose recommendations influence purchase decisions.  The goal of these engagements – online, over the phone and in person – is to share your brand’s sharable story and find ways of working together. Remember, you’re not pitching these individuals; you’re seeking to build a sustainable relationship with these critically important influencers.
  • Activate – After you create your sharable story and build relationships with individuals with both reach and influence, give them something to talk about. Create compelling experiences that engage customers in a relevant manner. For authors this might be interviews, podcasts, sample chapters, and short stories. Not-for-profits might consider sharing short videos of their organizations in action.
  • Protect – While this is certainly more important in some industries than others, it’s always important to protect your brand by identifying and seeking to mitigate negative voices and misinformation. Consider reaching out to individuals who have had a bad experience with your brand and see if you can change their opinion. Often, a little bit of care and concern can often improve a negative situation dramatically.
  • Measure – Finally, it is important to measure your success against marketing and business objectives. To clearly demonstrate and communicate the impact of your efforts, consider tracking results across three categories:

Social Measurements: Increases in where and how brand is talked about, shared and recommended.
Marketing Measurements: Increases in actions and attitudes that drive specific marketing goals.
Strategic Measurements: Increases in quantifiable strategic results that can be directly or indirectly     attributed to   your efforts.

While the above 6 steps don’t work overnight – they do work, and work well. More importantly, following the above advice will create sustainable relationships and can make you a credible and authentic voice in your industry. Done correctly, the above will:

Grow brand awareness
Spark conversation growth
Build fans and followers
Cultivate brand advocacy and recommendations
Boost traffic and sales

 

Follow Joshua on Twitter at @joshuahammond