How much is third-party validation worth to your brand?

Be an awesome brand, don't brag. “Don’t just talk about how awesome you are – BE more awesome.” –Peter Shankman, Vocus’ small biz evangelist at the recent users conference.

It’s true. Have you ever believed someone who was self-absorbed, narcissistic and boasted about themselves 24/7? We didn’t think so.

Having customers talk about your products and services positively online is a hidden gold mine. It’s the kind of “natural marketing” a brand needs to establish credibility and trust in the online sphere. Exploring online word-of-mouth and third-party validation is an interesting endeavor. Though hard to measure, its value is intangible:

  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations
  • 81% of customers reach out to friends and family members on social networking sites for advice before purchasing products.
  • 59% of consumers say user-generated product reviews have a significant impact on their buying behavior.

So I’m sure after reading these stats the question is how to get more customers telling their peers about you? Here are some third-party validation best practices to leverage your brand influence online:

1) Provide incentives for reviews. It doesn’t have to be something huge. One of your products for free in exchange for a review is usually all it takes to get a few words, a blog post or even a video with some unbiased customer insight. The cool thing is about reviews is that even if you don’t incentivize them, they will come – via social media, blogs, or review sites like Yelp.

2) Once you get a positive review, put it in a place where you can easily share it with others. This could come in the form of a list of Twitter favorites, or testimonials turned into images and pinned to Pinterest. Archive blogs where you’re mentioned as an option people use and organize your reviews by industry. Once you get a prospect who is asking for a review of your product from their peers, you can gently offer them your resources.

3) Don’t freak over the bad reviews. Sure, these spread. But it’s a challenge every brand has to face. Embrace the negative reviews as an opportunity to let your customer service shine – reach out to the person who wrote the review and get to the bottom of it. Once issues are resolved, and internet hugs are given, “Negative Nancys” are often turned into brand advocates.

4) Keep it public. While you don’t want to air your dirty laundry on social media, resolving a customer inquiry in the public eye shows everyone watching that you take accountability for mistakes and are willing to resolve it as quickly as possible. Prospects who see that will be more willing to trust your brand.

5) Track what happens. Ask your customers how they found out about you and track how many are coming from word-of-mouth recommendations online.  It’s as simple as asking the question on social media, or sending surveys through email.

How do you take advantage of the positive buzz customers give you online?