Word of Mouth Marketing: How to Establish a Successful Online Social Community Around Your Brand
Eighty-five percent of U.S. and European consumers claim that word of mouth recommendations from friends, family or colleagues typically are more trustworthy than corporate-generated content, said Peter Kosciewicz, director of e-commerce for vehicle customization merchant The Eastwood Co., citing a Datamonitor survey in a session at the Internet Retailer conference held earlier this month in Chicago. Using that data as a catalyst, Kosciewicz explained how The Eastwood Co. has developed on online community dedicated to its products.
1. Find a conversation and listen in. Kosciewicz surfed the Internet looking for auto parts and customization Web sites, message boards and online forums to find out whether or not car aficionados were talking about The Eastwood Co. and what they were saying. Once he learned how customers talked about his products, he knew how to approach building a forum on Eastwood’s site.
2. Consider creating a community. Before you create an online community around your brand, you must have a specific goal in mind, Kosciewicz stressed. Based on his research, Kosciewicz knew his customers wanted to talk about how to use Eastwood’s products and which products worked best for different jobs. He first opened the forums to Eastwood’s best, most frequent customers, so he could gauge their reactions to a new community, this time sponsored by a known brand. As his best customers began to use the site more frequently; he opened participation to more customers.
3. Understand the rules. Kosciewicz allows his customers to mention competitors’ products on Eastwood’s forums. He has a philosophy of never censoring the conversations, based on the idea that reading negative comments shows him how the company can improve.
4. Find and court the influencers. Influencers are people whose opinions are taken seriously by the community as a whole. Kosciewicz noted that his best customers aren’t necessarily his best influencers. He finds influencers using customer surveys, and by monitoring customer reviews and the forums. “Anyone who expresses opinions on your site is a potential influencer,” Kosciewicz pointed out. “Don’t be afraid of critics. If you meet their needs, they can be great advocates.” He recommended courting influencers with free samples, early access to new items or special offers.