Tags: fake news | social proofing | reputation | concerns

Fake News and Reputation Concerns Gives Rise to Social Proofing

Fake News and Reputation Concerns Gives Rise to Social Proofing

(AP/Dominic Lipinski)

By Thursday, 19 January 2017 07:44 AM Current | Bio | Archive

When a Donald Trump supporter was caught on video ranting on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Allentown, Pennsylvania last year, the airline waited 48 hours to respond after a fellow passenger posted the tirade on their Facebook page.

“Two days is way too late because the video was already viral,” said Bruce Mendelsohn, a social media, branding and digital marketing consultant in Boston. “Delta should have been more responsible and reacted as soon as it was posted.”

Had the airline apologized more quickly, experts say such an incident may not have reached the estimated 2 million people who reportedly viewed it.

“CEOs need to nip these types of incidents in the bud with social proof because the impact that social media has on reputation is further amplified by the megaphone effect,” said Zac Carman, CEO of ConsumerAffairs in Tulsa.

The megaphone effect combined with the 80 million millennials in the U.S. expected to spend $200 billion annually by 2017 makes a mass audience leverage-able to an ordinary consumer.

“We live in the reputation economy where stakeholders’ perceptions have a direct impact on business results,” said Fernando Prado, managing partner of the Reputation Institute, a global research and advisory firm that specializes in measuring reputation.

Perceptions related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) build more than 40% of any company’s reputation, according to the 2016 Global CSR RepTrak® 100 report, which means CEOs must be more proactive about how their company is perceived online if they expect to survive.

“Whatever your marketing claim or message may be, get ready to enlist the support of the masses to prove it,” said Matt Krayton, founder and principal with Publitics, a public affairs, public relations and strategy consultancy. “The burden of proof is no longer as simple as a television commercial, it’s about converting your customers into brand ambassadors who help other customers believe in the image that’s being portrayed about your products and services.”

While Google tops the ranking of companies perceived as the most responsible, according to the Reputation Institute, Amazon has revolutionized the shopper’s experience.

“Amazon has turned branding upside down by introducing individual consumer reviews that are posted on a product’s page and millennials more than any other generation are quick to express their opinion,” Carman told Newsmax Finance.

The role that reviews on Amazon, Zappos and other e-tailer sites play within a company’s business model has become increasingly important because it creates a more empowered consumer and cuts through the clutter.

“Modern shoppers are inundated with real news, fake news, testimonies, sponsored content and social impact from their friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter,” said Carman.

In fact, the younger the shopper, the more socially savvy he or she likely is. As a result, brands have to work to maintain a high response rate with effective social proofing if they expect to stay competitive. Many are turning to third-party review sites for help.

“Today, you have to simultaneously engage with and depend on your target audience to help spread the message about your brand whether it’s through third party review websites or leveraging feed back from social influencers about your product and service,” Krayton told Newsmax Finance.

Some 93% of all millennials read reviews before they make a purchase, which means popular opinion posted on a product’s webpage can make or break a brand.

“It all goes back to having a social proof plan in place,” said Krayton. “That’s the biggest thing for executives to remember or any leader of any organization to remember because it’s a pretty wild world out there. You need a plan in your front pocket just in case something like the Delta ranter happens to you.”

Companies were once effective in winning over consumers by merely issuing a study or significant statistic but social proof has evolved into its own profession in recent years.

Below are 8 rules for creating a social proof enforcement plan that works.

Monitor competitors and opposing voices.

Millennials, by sheer number, have re-defined power to the point that consumer generated content, in some cases, is trusted more than a brand’s own advertising.

“Address negative comments whether they are on review sites or posted on social media because the people who are engaging with your brand and your content have influence over others,” Krayton said.

Responding as quickly as possible with positive messaging puts out the fire before it spreads.

Although rectifying every negative chat or tweet that ever posts may not be humanly possible without an army, chipping away a little every day can prevent a disaster.

“You’re never going to be 100% because there are things that are genuinely unpredictable in business and life overall,” Carman said.

Create a detailed social proof plan

A social proof plan is about planting the seeds of effective messaging that are fruitful and multiply.

“A social proof plan’s purpose is to spread the messaging over several seasons, whether that’s quarterly or seasonally, all over the internet and different social media sites,” Mendelsohn told Newsmax Finance.

To that end, it’s important to create a strategic message and a few tactical ones that support the overall goal of the social proof plan.

For example, Mendelsohn is building social proof for the United Way’s Summer Start program, which seeks to increase the literacy curriculum at summer programs so that all children are on a level playing field.

“Branding comes from within and social proof comes from without,” he said. “Ideally, you want people to pick up on these messages or these reviews and disseminate them via their own social media sites. That’s what viral looks like.”

Weed out fake news

Although head honchos from Facebook and Google deny that fake news on their social network could have influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, both announced a crackdown that restrict sites from publishing fake news.

On November 12 last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his page: “We don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news.”

The appeal, however, of fake news is that it looks like real news.

“People are generally exposed to it through social media or people they know so it appears credible,” Krayton said.

But social proof is different from both sponsored content and fake news in that it derives from authentic consumer commentary that’s posted about a product or service as a result of a survey, review, testimony or customer service feedback.

“When social proof does not appear to originate from the company, it’s considered exceptional whereas sponsored content clearly states that it is content paid for by advertisers,” Mendelsohn said.

Fake news within the broader flow of content may pose a challenge from an ethical standpoint because consumers are often unable to tell the difference, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Some 64% of U.S. adults believe that fake news has left Americans confused about basic facts with only 39% feeling very confident that they can recognize news that is fabricated and 45% feeling somewhat confident.

“Fake news is dangerous and often used as a weapon in not only politics but also in warfare between brands,” said Carman.

Hire a social proof enforcer

A social proofing professional’s job is to spend every day online trolling for comments about a company or brand.

“Either hire a social proof professional or upgrade the job description of your social media manager to include social proof enforcement,” said Mendelsohn.

Social proof enforcement duties include monitoring the company’s social proof plan, blogging about products, responding to negative feedback and writing the CEO’s message in the event of a crisis.

“Having a blogger on staff who is a social proof enforcer is a proactive way to preserve your company’s reputation and prevent negative comments from going viral,” Mendelsohn said. “It needs to be a staffer who has intimate knowledge of the company’s mission, message and product.”

Embed a third party review widget on your website

A real life customer’s comment about a product or service can carry more weight than any amount of purchased advertising especially when comments are a component of a brand’s website in the form of a widget.

“While advertisers have started to follow consumers online, about a third of online advertising campaigns don't work—they don't generate awareness or drive any lift in purchase intent,” said Randall Beard, president of Nielsen Expanded Verticals.

Some 83% of consumers in 60 countries say they trust recommendations from friends and family over any other form of advertising and 66% indicate they trust consumer opinions posted online, according to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report.

“There’s a magic to social proof,” said Carman. “It takes on a life of its own. We create that magic here at ConsumerAffairs with our phone surveys and online reviews that are then posted both on social media and a brand’s website with a widget.”

That’s why experts advise hiring a third party review service as part of a brand’s social proof plan in order to integrate external voices from customers more easily

“A ConsumerAffairs widget is one way to present objective data to potential new customers,” Carman said.

Clearly label sponsored content in your social proof promotion

Although sponsored content is often created by reputable journalist employed by the marketing departments of legitimate media outlets, these articles are neither fake news nor social proof.

“Sponsored content is advertising and it’s clearly labeled as such,” said Mendelsohn.

“Readers know it’s manufactured because media outlets contain these professionally written articles on a page with the words sponsored content clearly typed across the top.”

Unlike fake news, because it’s clearly labeled, sponsored content can be promoted on Facebook with comments, shares and likes.

Social proof opportunities are built into Facebook.

Facebook is a medium created to share information with family and friends, and some 25% of web traffic is driven by Facebook’s 1.5 billion users, according to Shareaholic, a social media management firm.

Liking, sharing and commenting are all social proofing signals people use to inform their family and friends of products and services.

“That's the attractiveness of the platform that causes people to sign up,” Krayton said. “As a society, we use Facebook for word of mouth and to find out what our friends are using, doing or engaging in.”

In fact, in-stream advertisements display which friends like a particular post or not. This stream can be found to the middle right of a person’s Facebook newsfeed.

“This is where a social proof professional can leverage likes, comments and shares with engagement on Twitter or Facebook,” said Krayton. “It's all about figuring out where you're going to get the most engagement and trying to leverage that good feedback.”

Align your brand with social influencers

While content is often considered king, social influencers make up the throne upon which the content sits. Some 51 percent of marketers believe they get better customers from influencer marketing and it’s considered a cost effective channel to acquire new customers, according to an influencer marketing study.

“Obviously celebrities are expensive but there may be pockets of social influencers that you can talk to and engage with,” Krayton said. “Be proactive and whichever you choose, be strategic about identifying the best for your purpose.”

Because there are different categories of influencers, about 75% of marketing professionals say identifying the right influencers is the biggest challenge when rolling out a strategy, according to an eMarketer study.

“You have YouTube stars and people with millions of followers like the Kardashians but a teenager with a couple hundred followers on Instagram can be just as helpful in certain circumstances as a middle tier mom blogger,” said Krayton.

Although 81% felt that influencer engagement was effective, after paying social influencers, it's often difficult to measure performance.

“It’s not always easy to determine how effective the social influencer’s performance is and to keep track of their activities outside of endorsing your brand of product and services,” said Carman. “That’s why the most successful CEOs become a social influencer for their brand in their own right.”

When determining which influencers to work with, reviewing social profiles and traffic data was cited by marketeers as the most important followed by demographics, rank and search engine optimization standing and Alexa to a lesser degree, according to a Grouphigh study.

“It's all about orders of magnitude and picking an audience,” Krayton said.

Juliette Fairley is an author, lecturer and TV host based in New York.

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When determining which influencers to work with, reviewing social profiles and traffic data was cited by marketeers as the most important followed by demographics, rank and search engine optimization standing and Alexa to a lesser degree, according to a Grouphigh study.
fake news, social proofing, reputation, concerns
Thursday, 19 January 2017 07:44 AM
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