Prior to Web 2.0, consumers had limited access to platforms that allowed them to share information about their favorite companies, brands, and products. Fortunately for consumers (and for brands), things have changed dramatically. Multiple Social Media platforms, websites, and applications allow for consumers to share their experiences and “expertise” with others. This free speech can be frightening for many companies because they have little control over the flow of information relating to their brand. However, positive reviews can be lucrative for companies that know how to leverage the content. As a result, customers have unknowingly turned into unofficial brand promoters.
Look at Reddit, the entertainment, Social Media, and news website that has gained popularity over the past few years. This website contains hundreds of thousands of Subreddits, which focus on a specific topic, idea, brand, or product. Many brands have multiple “Subreddits” for their products with no access to page moderation.. Thousands of posters post questions, news, and problems relating to a brand or product, which fellow Redditors can respond to. At first glance, this type of uncontrollable exposure can seem alarming. In reality, Redditors are offering free marketing for the mentioned brands.
The video game Subreddits exemplify the power of individual voices if they are on the right platform. When someone has a frustration about a glitch or a bug, other redditors commonly help them find a solution, allowing for customer service associates and game moderators (for online gaming) to deal with more pressing customer service issues. Often times, a redditor will ask fellow posters if a product is worth buying, and fans of the product will explain the features of the product in full detail. Third party information generally seems more legitimate to potential customers because they feel they can trust a third party member more than a company, who benefits from the purchase. Although Reddit is a great source of third party information, it is certainly not the only way to receive third-party information about products.
Other Social Media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have become valuable tools for third party marketing. Oreo Cookies and GoPro are two brands that have been very successful on Social Media. The hashtag “#oreos” has become incredibly popular, with users all over the globe posting about the tasty cookies. One customer wrote, “How can I stay thin when my mom keeps buying me Oreos?” Nabisco, the producer of Oreo cookies, has no control over posts like these. But with the positive responses like this, why would they want that control?
One of the most successful products to turn their customers into brand promoters is GoPro. We all know that GoPro cameras are the cool cameras that can be attached to a helmet, car, surfboard, etc., and they provide the customer with a unique filming experience, which they can show to the world. What people may not know about GoPro is where they get their marketing content. Every day, people post to the GoPro Social Media pages, offering free footage for GoPro to use during their commercials. GoPro does have the choice of footage to use for their commercials, however, many of GoPro’s viral videos are not posted through their page, but through the pages of brand loyal users of the product.
Is there a downside to using customers as brand promoters?
Yes, where there is a reward, there is always a risk. If a product is not working well, customers have multiple outlets to voice their complaint. If you look at any brands that deal with customer service, you will see negative posts on their Social Media pages regarding a horrible customer service experience. What many companies do to rectify the situation is to apologize to the customer and to offer them the opportunity to talk to another service expert in detail about the problem that took place. However, this may not be enough. Problems that arise on Social Media platforms are rarely, if ever, reported to corporate.
This may seem like a negative aspect of third party information, but it depends on how you look at the situation. A company that actively listens to its customers’ complaints, concerns, and ideas now has the opportunity to improve their products in the future. In the past, communication between the consumer and the brand was limited, which meant making products to suit the needs of consumers was more challenging.
Customers have become a great source of free brand promotion as we’ve entered into Web 2.0. Marketing strategists should focus on creating happy, engaged customers. Happy customers make happy brand promoters.