Some of us might still remember obtaining most of our information about a product or brand from advertising or promotional campaigns. But not anymore. Today, a proliferation of content, multiple social media channels and mobile communications have changed the way consumers receive information, the speed at which it is obtained, and who it is received from.
According to a report by Experticity, consumers want the best information quickly and rely on conversations driven by friends, family and trusted experts, in addition to information absorbed through social media, to learn about products and make purchasing decisions.
In fact, the report states that brands “are now in the hands of community influencers and customers.” And, no matter how much a brand invests in advertising or sponsorships, it won’t cultivate the right relationships until it views influence in a new way. It notes that new rules now govern a brand’s influence. They include the following:
- Trust is a scarce resource – only four percent of Americans believe marketers and advertisers act with integrity, according to a survey by the 4A’s entitled, “Sex, Lies & News.” The survey also found that nearly half of consumers surveyed don’t trust any news source. Yet, 68 percent of consumers trust online reviews from strangers over a brand’s marketing.
The bottom line, says Experticity, is that brand messaging makes consumers skeptical, nervous and on their guard. Connecting with the right people, not big advertising and marketing budgets, builds trust.
- A brand’s true catalysts for influence are everywhere – interestingly, celebrity endorsements, which have cost advertisers millions in fees, don’t really matter anymore. Instead, purchases are influenced by one’s family and friends, as well as industry leaders and subject matter experts. Experticity refers to these “purchase catalysts” as “people like us who have taken the time to research a company’s products and services in depth because they have a passion for the category.”
To support this claim, in one data set of a billion social mentions, 91 percent originated from people with fewer than 500 followers, according to social monitoring site, Mention. Experticity recommends that, to reach key audiences and develop lasting, long-term relationships with industry catalysts and leaders considered experts in their communities, brands must be ubiquitous. They suggest developing deeper relationships with people from everyday contexts (e.g. the retail store associate, category professionals and passionate recommenders.)
- Consumers rule commerce – according to Lab42, only 24 percent of Americans believe advertisements. Therefore, brands must convince audiences they’re selling exceptional products and/or services. To accomplish this, brands need to provide consumers with access to credible recommendations from first-hand experiences. In B2B areas such as healthcare IT, case studies work exceptionally well because it is the end user, not the brand, doing the touting. The key is for brands (both consumer and B2B) to create a network of category influencers and provide them with educational resources and an experience with your product or service.
Something that has worked well for the public relations profession over the years is trust. According to Nielson, a whopping 92 percent of consumers worldwide say they trust earned media, including word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. And, 83 percent of word-of-mouth recommendations are tied to personal experiences with a brand or product. The bottom line: trusted influencers are a brand’s best marketing strategy.
- Authenticity is the ultimate currency – Experticity explains that to be influential, a brand must provide more than surface-level content. Instead, they must develop a deep understanding of their customers’ most significant needs and pain points.
So, what does all of this mean? Experticity says:
- Map your customers’ buying journey to understand where they buy and who influences their purchase decisions.
- Create the right kind of insider content that builds real insider relationships with a brand, including things that help them have a great conversation about your product/service.
- Show some extra consideration to top influencers within your target market. Treat them as a special part of your business and team and they’ll become your brand’s best advocate.