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Tips for turning product reviews into powerful word-of-mouth marketing

Many marketers have learned to fear customer reviews, focusing mainly on how to respond to negative reviews and spam and breathing a sigh of relief when positive reviews come in. But while responding to negative reviews is important, enabling and incentivizing customers to share their positive reviews can have a huge impact. A report from ShareThis, a social sharing platform, revealed that online reviews and recommendations made via social media increase the value and desirability of products by 9.5 percent.

"In a nutshell, online recommendations and online sharing have more impact than brand or price, according to the results of the study," says Kurt Abrahamson, CEO of ShareThis. "That's a big statement. It's not just the importance but that they are more important."

More often than not, product reviews live solely on product pages and are seen by just a handful of interested buyers who take the time to scroll to the bottom of the page and read them. This is an enormous missed opportunity, as 78 percent of purchases are socially influenced. Smart marketers who find ways to push reviews beyond the product page can benefit from this authentic and relatively free exposure. Here are a few key steps to take advantage of the full power of social reviews:

Understand what motivates sharing

It stands to reason that a customer who has taken the time to write a review will want to share it with their peers on social media. Psychologist and marketing expert Ernest Dichter, who conducted a study on word-of-mouth marketing almost 50 years ago, found that people share their product experiences for two reasons:

  1. Product involvement: Dichter found that 33 percent of product-based word-of-mouth marketing was motivated by an experience that was “surprising” or so satisfactory the customer had to tell their friends about it.
  2. Self involvement: According to Dichter, 24 percent of shares came from a customer’s motivation to appear as an expert on a topic or product and shared their review in order to seem to have inside information.

When it comes to the digital world and social media, not much has changed for what motivates customers to share their product reviews and recommendations with a broader audience.

Notify customers that their review has been posted

Worldwide, there are roughly 1 billion users on Facebook, 560 million on Twitter and 70 million on Pinterest. Consumers who post online reviews are likely to be active on Facebook and Twitter as well. However, many consumers are never notified when a review that they have posted has been published. Typically, once the customer review is submitted, it goes through a moderation process to filter out foul language, specific quotes about competitors and spam. When the review is approved many customers have no idea that it's been made public online. One easy step that marketers can take to get customers to share their product reviews is simply notifying them via email that their review has been posted and thanking them for leaving a review.

Make the most of your customers’ communities

A customer who has purchased from a particular retailer is likely to be connected via social media with other like-minded consumers who also will be interested in that retailer’s products. For new mothers, for example, there is a strong incentive to stay up-to-date on the latest children's products that have been vetted and recommended by other mothers. Marketers can leverage the fact that there are many social individuals online who wield massive influence through communication with their networks — making a customer review that lives solely on a product page a missed opportunity to build both trust and brand awareness. By encouraging customers to share their product reviews and making this step simple by providing social media share buttons, for instance, brands can benefit from having their customers do the marketing for them.

It's important for marketers to consider how they can make the most of product reviews and what they can do to extend the reach of word-of-mouth marketing. What do you think motivates your customers to share their experiences with your product?

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