Get Recommended: The Power of Word of Mouth

_Today’s post is from Paul M. Rand, author of _Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media to Build Your Brand and Your Business — our Marketing Nation Book Clubselection for the month of November.

We’re now at “the end of the beginning” of social media marketing. While nearly every business and organization has adopted foundational social media platforms, many brands are now asking how they can effectively use these channels to engage their consumers.

The answer? For businesses to succeed in the social media-rich world, they now have to transform their business strategies. They have to make their brands the most recommended.

According to Nielsen and Roper Reports, 92% of all consumers report that a word-of-mouth recommendation is the “leading reason they buy a product or service.”  This insight showcases the importance of grounding your business strategy with a focus on the power of the recommendation.

So how do you become the most recommended brand? Here are the 5 steps you need to take:

It’s critical that you understand what circumstances drive people to make these recommendations, and the literal language they use when making a recommendation. If you aren’t already, be sure you are using social listening tools to monitor conversations about your brand and your competitors. Every segment in any industry can benefit from social listening—that is, a careful analysis of the target audience—to prepare an appealing message.

2. Plan: Articulate Your Shareable Story, Boosting Your Search Ranking, and Formalize Your Paid, Earned, and Owned Recommendable Brand Strategy

The next step is to formalize your “Shareable Story.” This story determines 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 Shareable Story exercise is to develop simple, conversational language that a brand advocate might literally use in a conversation with a friend or family member.

Next, develop a plan to maximize the impact of your new shareable messaging. To be truly effective, everyone inside your organization has to be aligned on how you want to be recommended. Once you have that clarity and uniformity, you can focus on making those recommendations a reality. Your efforts online need to activate potential customers at every step of the sales funnel:

3. Identify: Discover  Your Influencers

Now that you’ve firmed up your messaging, you’ll need to identify and engage your influencers—the people whose recommendations influence purchase decisions. The goal of these engagements—online or offline—is to tell your brand’s Shareable Story and find ways of working together. Remember, you’re not pitching these individuals; you’re seeking to build a sustainable relationship with critically important influencers. Regardless of your company, product, or brand, there are influencers who can take your recommendation marketing to the next level—but not if you never identify them.

4. Activate: Compel and Engage with the 90/10 Rule

Once you create your Shareable Story and build relationships with influencers, give them something to talk about. Create compelling experiences that engage customers in a relevant manner. When it comes to engagement—getting people invested in your message, forming authentic relationships, building credibility and trust, and so on—I’d like to suggest using the 90/10 Rule.

The 90/10 Rule states that you spend 90% of your time engaging with people across your communication channels: informing them, entertaining them, educating them, sharing with them, asking for their input, and listening to them. You spend the remaining 10% of your time actively sharing your brand messages—or encouraging people into action of some kind.

5. Protect: Identify and Neutralize Determined Detractors

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. The damage caused by negative perceptions of your brand can be increasingly severe. With so much happening online, the longer a negative perception exists without a strong offense or defense, the more likely people are to a) see it and b) believe it. According to Lightspeed Research, we know that 67% of consumers say they would not buy a product if it had as few as three negative reviews. Here are some tips for proactively protecting your brand’s image:

Becoming a highly recommended brand does not happen by accident. Goodwill aside, this is about growing your business in demanding and rapidly evolving times. This roadmap will get you started on your journey to becoming highly recommended.

We’re excited to feature Paul M. Rand’s book, Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media to Build Your Brand and Your Business on our **Marketing Nation Book Club **for the month of November — follow the link to read a sample chapter.

Have a question for Paul? Join the discussion at the Marketing Nation Book Club on LinkedIn, where we’re giving away 5 hardcover copies of the book.