A brand is only as strong as its trust quotient. Cultivating this sense of trust and building up a base of loyal users who would love to talk about their experience with the brand is a marketing strategy that never goes out of vogue.
With the rise of social media stars all around us, courtesy the short video sharing apps, the glamour, and glitz of influencers is gradually fading. Users are no more wowed by profiles with millions of followers as social media has given every skilled user a chance to make it big. In this scenario, the trend of trying out the products advertised by a widely followed star is gradually waning. In short, the captivating power and charm of influencer marketing are losing steam.
Does that mean smart buyers of the digital generation are no more susceptible to branding and marketing strategies? No, we are more dependent than ever on our gadgets and search engine powered algorithms for making a buying decision. The customer today loves to make an informed decision. A decision powered by analysis of custom features available, a breakdown of product pricing, a comparative study with competitors, and most importantly, honest reviews.
Image Credit: Spiegel Research Centre
Reviews from users who have used a product or a service are simply priceless. According to a survey by Spiegel Research Centre, 95% of shoppers depend upon online reviews for making a purchase decision. Understanding the importance of staying honest, various e-commerce sites, along with businesses from travel and tourism industries, let only verified users post reviews. Fake and dressed up reviews are easily called out and harms the trustworthiness of a brand. According to the above survey, the display of reviews increases conversion rates by over 270%.
This new generation of informed users who have the power of influencing potential customers is labeled as brand advocates. Brands are gradually moving from heavily paid influencers to engaging vocal advocates who love speaking out their minds on social media. Brand advocates speak from the perspective of a regular user who has paid for a particular product or a service. This viewpoint is bound to drastically differ from an influencer who has been paid to speak about a particular product or a service without even using it mostly. An exhaustive research report by Deloitte Research covering 30 billion products underlines the importance of brand advocacy and customer reviews. A positive word of mouth by someone known to a client is the biggest motivator for purchase as users get more skeptical by promises made by big brands.
Image Credit: Deloitte Research
There is a subtle difference in the tone and tenor of influencer marketing and brand advocacy which strongly affects the bottom line of sales. Influencers generally speak the language of the brands coating it with their appealing prowess to take a product across millions of followers across various social media platforms. This serves as a tool for brand awareness and does not necessarily promote sales. Brand advocates are real-life personae who have been simply wowed with a feature-packed product, excellent service, or even highly responsive customer support.
Brand advocates usually have no claim to fame, and they are mostly social media users who love to speak out about their experiences in general. This is what builds up their trustworthiness and easily translates to a trust quotient for the brand too. For every user writing about a particular experience with a brand, there are thousands of other users who give it a read when it comes up naturally in their news feed. Users are usually sceptical about anything which resembles paid content in social media, and this is where brand advocacy scores. It is a subtle marketing strategy which appears as organic content in the newsfeed of their target audience.
Brand advocacy can be in the form of online conversations, leaving informative reviews with product snapshots and close-ups, writing testimonials, or engaging directly with the brand on social media. The majority of satisfied users voluntarily leave an honest review when prompted to, and it is often a free advertisement for a brand that gets amplified through social media channels. If the reviews are critical, brands can straightaway apologize while ramping up its service or product quality and request the user a fresh all paid engagement for a better experience. Apart from quality enhancement in real-time, prompt action and end-user satisfaction gives the brand an extremely positive coverage on social media. In both cases, the brand wins.
Image Credit: Deloitte Research
As long as businesses are willing to spend the big bucks for gaining a quick foothold in highly competitive markets, influencer marketing is here to stay. But in the long run, brand advocates are proving to be priceless assets who help to build up a loyal client base cutting across all ages. As per a U.K. market survey by Deloitte Research, only 10-15% of consumers, in general, share their experience about products and services online. The rest 85-90% of the consumers are a virtual gold mine for the company who should be encouraged to share their interactions after making a purchase. Brand advocates humanize a brand and are more effective at customer conversion in comparison to influencer marketing.
Credibility is the only single keyword that differentiates brand advocacy from all conceivable forms of paid marketing strategies. Businesses should incorporate brand advocacy as an integral part of their marketing strategy. In the coming days, brands should have an ear for user-generated content as that is where their brand value is getting built. Brand advocacy can be an important facet for building credibility which is the desired outcome of Online Reputation Management (ORM).
Tags: Brand advocacy, Influencer, Influencer marketing