Online Reviews: Help, or Hindrance?

Have you got a love/hate relationship with social media?

Don’t know which to fear more – missing out on a potential marketing channel, or wasting unproductive time there?

Major corporate players – and possibly your competition – are ramping up their investment in social media.

Does that mean you should?

Here’s the first question to ask as your plan your exposure to this channel:

Are you B2B or B2C?

If you answered B2B, then don’t worry about social media. You’re far better off with direct marketing; buying traffic with PPC, direct mail and PR, developing your web site, building your list and nurturing your evangelists.

If you are B2C, you need to deal with it. Here are my suggestions:

Talking “with” vs. “at” your audience

The old marketing model was broadcast your message out to your market, and unless you’re really dumb, to a highly targeted market.

Think network TV before cable.

Back in the dark ages, families sat in their living rooms and passively took in everything their TV’s spewed out at them. Sure we rebelled and made fun of it (some of us), but what else could you do? No matter how loud you shouted, Walter Cronkite just didn’t seem to hear you…

Social Media demands a different mindset. It’s all about dialogue. It’s not about being up on stage in front of as much as sitting down beside your audience.

Leveraging the peer-to-peer or community aspect of social media

Social media creates a space for a community to grow a life of its own. What used to be a single “mass audience” is now splintered and members of your following can freely talk among themselves. You can’t control the conversation, all you can do is foster it in your direction.

Give people a forum, and nurture a set of values they can resonate with. Your business then serves that community by providing solutions aligned with its core values.

Example: Maybe you watched how Ryan Deiss launched his “Number One Book Club”, a product and program for people interesting in publishing Kindle books. A key part of the whole promotion and product is how you get access to a thriving, dynamic community of like-minded peers to bounce ideas off of to enhance your ability to use the product.

Monitor what your audience is telling you

One in five consumers trust ads. Banners? Forget it.

On the other hand, in a recent study, 79% were found to check online reviews from other consumers before making a buying decision.

Not saying this is smart. It’s just is what consumers are doing.

Think about the last time you looked at a book on Amazon. Were you at least curious about the number of stars?

Consumers do that with restaurants, tire shops, schools – even political candidates (think polls).

If you are a B2C business owner, ignore what people are saying about your business at your own peril. In 2012 and beyond, the game is when you get good reviews, sales go up.

P.S. Just one bad review could turn off perfectly good customers for months. “Bullet-proof” your site and double sales – click here to learn how.