The next thing in social media marketing is harnessing your existing followers and customers to be your brand advocates. Unfortunately, figuring out exactly how to do that is not always clear to the average company.
That’s why we talked to Dennis O’Malley, co-founder and CEO of ReadyPulse, to talk about social testimonials and how businesses can leverage their existing brand advocates for better social media marketing. To learn more about ReadyPulse, visit their site.
Well, I think the first part of the answer is that Srinivas and I have known each other for 12 years. We knew each other out of Santa Clara University Business School, and the way that we saw a problem that we wanted to solve is that marketers were using some quantitative metrics to understand their progress in social media, and we wanted to provide some qualitative basis to help them understand it. What that led to very quickly was the realization that companies, and mainly ecommerce companies, were not leveraging their most valuable asset, which was word of mouth marketing from their brand advocates. So we set off to be a testimonial system of record for word of mouth testimonials for brands that they could use in context along campaigns. That’s how we got started.
Well, it’s inertia, number one. When you have a white space in terms of where and how you can apply your technology, it’s difficult to not have a lot of different excitement around a lot of different applications. So I think the challenge for us was to be able to narrow it down to some specific use cases and verticals where you were going to make the most impact. Luckily for us, we had some early clients in the beginning who helped provide product development and product feedback, and they were the best type of clients to get involved with because we are very strong in those verticals that we started off with initially–apparel, action sports, jewelry, beauty products–anything where there’s a premium brand and where word of mouth matters and a visual representation of a product is important.
There’s two things to it. First is inventory. Most brands have no idea how many positive comments and brand enthusiasm that they have on their own networks. When it comes to their Facebook page, Twitter handles, Pinterest boards, email lists, and websites, we can show the amount of inventory to a brand quickly and say, “Here is your existing word of mouth marketing.” The existing user generated content that is leveragable in marketing is one huge differentiation–that’s immediate. It’s not having to grow it or give people surveys about it–it’s just there.
The second thing is impact–the ability to actually curate and personalize that inventory to the person at the right channel of their choosing. So when somebody’s able to see a testimonial that is relevant to them, that has been measured from being an advocate that’s already been tested as compelling, it has a lot more impact on traffic and on conversion. So our impact to commerce based on what we think is the most effective form of marketing word of mouth is a major difference there.
I think there’s two parts to that. One is our clients are actually happiest when we innovate. When they are able to do something that nobody else is able to do. That’s when they’re happiest. And I think the second part of that is they’re also happy when they have some input as to the product road map and development. I would go beyond the fact that we listen–I would go to we embed. So our core clients are those we consider strategic partners who very much feel that they have a seat at the table in terms of where our product road map is going and where the value is being delivered. Of course, if we’re doing our job, we’re not asking our clients what to build–we’re telling our clients what new great things that that we’re bringing to the table that they didn’t even know was possible.
We think that every business runs off word of mouth marketing and that it’s the most effective form of marketing. With that said, we will likely never get into industries that are commodities, such as apps, books, music, and some electronics where five star ratings and text based information is still likely the best way to choose between different products. I believe that there are a number of different verticals where five star text based ratings and reviews just aren’t an accurate picture of how consumers are expressing their brand enthusiasm. So while we got our start in apparel, sporting goods, jewelry, and beauty, I think it certainly goes beyond that. But again, we’re focusing on premium brands where word of mouth matters, and where brand loyalty is a big deal. We’re not focusing so much on any type of consumer services, like restaurants or health clubs. We have had extreme interest in business-to-business, so you’ll likely see ReadyPulse having much more of an impact on business testimonials, business use cases, and business customer references than in the past.
I think the best analogy to use is what the transition has been for YouTube. When you look at YouTube, the amount of individual content creators has been phenomenal, and there’s a cream of the crop YouTube channel of people who develop great content and have a lot of followers. What they’ve been able to do as individuals is actually have their own sponsors, and even within Google, be able to have some type of revenue share model. So when you look at that, you see at the ability for an individual brand influencer and an individual brand advocate to have even more influence. If they are a highly contributing member to that community and they produce great content, you can certainly see a lot of similarities between how YouTube has treated their best content creators and how brands will treat their advocates, as well.
The first part to that is just organizational. In most ecommerce or retail companies, the ecommerce and social divisions are separate, and the teams are very different. Ecommerce is very metrics driven; social is very engagement driven; so until those teams are joined at the hip with a common mission to grow great clients and margins and revenue, there’s going to be some challenges. The second thing is just for clients to be able to give their consumers a natural way to express their brand advocacy. I went into a retailer this weekend with my wife, and there was a survey that was an in-store kiosk, and it had about 30 different questions. The questions were all the same net promoter score questions of zero to ten, like, “How likely are you to recommend the store?” Well, that’s going to change on a daily basis, and that’s definitely not the way that my wife or I want to express how we felt about the store. My wife would have loved to have a taken a picture of what she just bought and post it online and say, “Hey, I love this new shirt.” So I think that the challenge for retailers is how to get unstuck from thinking that the structured data where you give a ten point survey scale–which is analogous to a Scantron test in high school–is the best way to collect consumer feedback.
The only thing that brands and retailers and people have questions about, really, is how to get started, and what happens if they don’t have a great social presence. I would always say to anybody who asks that question is that it’s actually easier than you think. You may not have social fans, but you have customers and you have email lists. Simply having the ability to give them a natural outlet to express their brand enthusiasm is a way to both infuse social engagement, but also a way to capture your best testimonials, and then being able to curate and showcase those testimonials.
I get incredibly pumped when I see how many people are expressing their brand enthusiasm through social media on a brand’s own channel. Social provides such a great mechanism to have authentic visual communications and conversations. The other part that’s amazing is providing consumers with great shopping experiences and the ability to not have to go through five pages of different reviews that are all five stars and not personalized to them, but actually be able to see somebody who’s a peer and an influencer with a brand expression that makes a much more engaging shopping experience. The fact that ReadyPulse is bringing that to some of the most amazing brands in the world is really cool and really humbling.
I think there’s a number of things, but I’ll put them into two buckets. First is the multi-channel capability to accept customer testimonials through mobile, the web, email, and social. So to provide a common system and ability to grow and capture testimonials regardless of the channel, and to have that in one system of record is phenomenal for brands and retailers. I think the second thing to that is complete integration within leading ecommerce providers. Right now it’s Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and Magento that we have plugins and extensions for companies with those stores. We’re also a Demandware partner, and there’s going to be other extensions that you’ll see from us in the near term, as well. Those are the two things that we’re pretty excited about.
I’m going to answer this a little bit differently. The first company that I always look to is not a company that’s done social marketing well per se, but it’s a company that we’ve really respected and tried to emulate on social, which is Title Nine. They are a high-end women’s workout clothing line that actually puts customers in their catalog as models, and that’s always struck me and my wife as being a very authentic brand, and we really try to duplicate that.
Number two is a brand that we’re humbled everyday to work with; they’re the most engaged and most successful brand in social, I think, which is GoPro. The fact that they continue to innovate in terms of what they do in social, and because of the fact that they continue to have the best engagement rate, we always look to them as a benchmark for any one of our clients to say, “This is where you want to get to.” GoPro has always set the bar as being the most engaging brand on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
For more information on ReadyPulse, you can visit their website at www.readypulse.com, or check out the ReadyPulse Social Testimonials Platform page here at Business-Software.com