Short break for some gossips

By Jeff Ernst

When a startup is looking to build awareness for their brand–regardless if it’s an app, a grocery delivery business, a retail boutique or a new smart home device, the most common approach to trying to build this mythical “awareness” is to go “old school”–get a press release out and distribute it through the wire and get 200 backlinks, put up creative content across all your social channels, find all the free $100 Google/Bing/LinkedIn ad codes you can get and get all as many impressions as possible to show off your shiny new thing.

Let me stop you there. No…seriously, stop. Put down the blog post and stop entering that code and walk away for a minute – yes, you can still use them…but let’s think about this.

  • Recent studies show people trust marketers’ intentions 4% of the time. 4. Four. F-O-U-R. Make all the lawyer and used car salesman jokes you want; this is worse.
  • We’re hit with almost 200 newspapers worth of content through mobile/social every day. We immediately filter out almost 99% without consideration.
  • Authentic referrals and brand advocates are trusted 92% of the time. Compare that with 23% for brands (1/4 as much) and 18% for influencers (1/5 as much).

Combined with the problems of low organic reach and needing to understand marketing’s impact on your actual business adding social brand advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing becomes critically important. The reason it becomes critically important is, as a brand, you are competing for your potential customers’ trust and attention.  You need both trust and attention before they become a user or customer. As a startup, competing for attention becomes overwhelming.  Your more established competition can drown out your noise with more of their message and your potential customers don’t know you…so they don’t trust you.

How do you increase trust in your company? If your company has any users, customers or employees the perception of your company isn’t in your hands, it’s in theirs. Their experiences, what they share, what value they think it brings, what they really use it for – is what people really think about your company and your product or service. The impact of their words, shared experiences, photos, videos, etc. is 8x more impactful than if it came from your company. In the end what “they” say is your brand and the driving factor behind this is “they” trust your brand. Their connections – friends, family, business associates and co-workers,– trust them. When somebody talks about your company to another person using social media, trust is changing hands. It is, and should be treated like a currency, one that you want floating around with your company’s logo on it.

By building social word-of-mouth and social brand advocates, you find and activate the people who have a belief in or a passion for what your company is doing. It doesn’t require a large amount of people – the small can create a much bigger, more sustainable and actual real impact. Even with 3-5 users who tried your product, service or store – harnessing their experience, getting their story and getting them to share it creates more reach.

  • Much like there are 6 degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon, an advocates’ impact goes out 8 degrees the other way. An empowered advocate will end up with an impact reaching over 40,000 people after the message is transferred, shared and re-shared.
  • An authentic word-of-mouth impression will trigger re-sharing up to 24x more, a purchase up to 50x more and is valued at up to 200x a paid impression.
  • The ROI on social brand advocacy is approximately 10x the return of paid media.

The keys to building social word-of-mouth involve identifying the right advocates, activating them and building an engaging community that provides an insider connection with your company and other advocates. It’s a process that takes a little more effort and time on the front end, but the actual measurable results and payoff far exceed the other. Most importantly, don’t think you have to have a huge social following (it doesn’t matter at all) or need a big group to start considering this as part of your strategy. Know and believe that the small can have a much bigger impact on the big picture.

Jeff Ernst, CEO and President at Smync, has built, grown and managed sales and marketing organizations in businesses of all sizes, with over 20 years of marketing and management experience. A lifelong entrepreneur, Jeff has worked over 10 years in tech including B2B startups in webcasting and web conferencing. Connect with him @TheJeffErnst and on LinkedIn.