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Customer engagement strategy WoM marketing
BrandBastion1/28/20 10:20 AM12 min read

Word of Mouth Marketing: Brand engagement strategies

How Brands Can Build Brand Engagement on Social Media

Positivity sells, and it’s a powerful marketing resource and customer engagement strategy. But the love left on your posts by fans of the brand has become more than user-generated marketing collateral. It’s an active user touchpoint – and one where users expect a brand response. Fail to respond, and you’re not just diminishing the user experience: you’re actively losing out on revenue.

This leaves social media marketers with a considerable dilemma. A sizable level of engagement and word of mouth marketing is a great sign that your ad is performing. But how do you meet user expectations of meaningful brand interaction – especially on posts with hundreds (if not thousands) of enthusiastic comments? Do all fan comments need a response?

At BrandBastion, we believe the brands with the best customer engagement strategies are those that make sure every fan feels appreciated in real-time, 24/7.


Social Media in Word of Mouth Marketing

With 74% of consumers following brands on social media, social platforms are an essential (and lucrative) space. They allow interaction and conversation – not just between users, but between brands and customers. Social platforms power word of mouth marketing 2.0, and they’ve become powerful resources for modern marketers for leveraging customer engagement.

Statistics show word of mouth marketing (even in its pre-social forms) is effective. Nearly three out of four people agree word of mouth marketing plays a vital role in their purchase decisions. The typical customer discusses brands in casual conversation over 90 times each week. For Millennials, word of mouth marketing is 115% more effective than traditional tactics. It's a big driver behind influencer marketing’s success.

Brands know it pays to capitalize on these discussions, using comments from fans as testimonials in their social marketing. Poshmark does a great job here, taking standout fan comments and turning them into branded posts on Instagram. Proof that users love a real-world referral, these UGC (user-generated content) fan posts see roughly the same level of engagement (likes and comments) as original posts that promote Poshmark’s products.

Poshmark customer engagement strategy on Instagram


Why aren’t more brands leveraging this strategy? Because finding the right kind of fan comment can be a lot of work. Having a team member read through all your comments to pull out testimonials isn’t a scalable, efficient use of resources. Implementing a fan comment response strategy can help by directing enthusiastic fans to testimonial spaces on your website. It also provides valuable brand interaction that users respond to, increasing loyalty.

Also, a simple “Love this!” from a user is essentially giving your brand a glowing recommendation. And those who go a step further to tag their friends and comment “@johnkeene, you’ve got to check this out!” give your ad reach you didn’t have to pay for.

Just by placing an ad on Facebook, marketers know:

  • Nearly nine out of ten users place the same level of trust in an online review as they do a recommendation from a friend.
  • After reading a positive comment or review, roughly three quarters of users will take some form of action. Nearly 60% will visit a brand’s website. That’s a huge reason to use fan comments to inspire action and create an effective Zero Moment of Truth.
  • A referral from a friend makes it four times more likely a user will decide to make a purchase.

As social media and user expectations have evolved, it’s become clear that simply placing an ad on social and “letting Facebook do its thing” isn’t enough. The brands that take this set-it-and-forget-it strategy are quickly outpaced by those that apply customer engagement strategies to connect with fans to encourage, manage, and capitalize on the power of word of mouth.

Boosting Word of Mouth Marketing with an Engagement Marketing Strategy

Word of mouth marketing enabled by social ads isn’t just effective, it’s marketing that can be measured, tracked, and optimized. The best brands are doing exactly this. As a result, they’re seeing sales that are five times higher than those generated by traditional marketing methods.

But how exactly are the best-in-the-business marketers accomplishing this on social?

1. Encourage positive comment volume by taking advantage of every possible touchpoint

It is true that consumers place equal trust in an online review written by a stranger as they do one offered by a friend. But the average user needs to read 10 positive reviews before they’re willing to trust the brand.

Research shows that only one third of brands have strategies in place to actively encourage users to share success stories. By developing a customer engagement strategy that engages with fans live, you’ll increase the love users show on your ad.

2. Use comment touchpoints to bolster brand recognition

Before a new customer actively remembers your brand, they’ll need at least five brand interactions. Old-school marketers will read this and say “Okay, let’s make frequency our main ad objective.” Consider, however, that a response from your brand is also an interaction. It carries a much smaller cost when done correctly at scale and is a lot more meaningful than simply scrolling by another advertisement.

Pair this with the fact that only one in four customers feel that they actually have a relationship with a brand, and you’ve got a strong case for creating that relationship (and loyalty) by responding to fan community comments. The payoff? Brands that design customer engagement strategies to create emotional connections with users see triple the amount of word of mouth marketing than companies that don’t. Further still, 94% of users who feel emotionally connected to a brand actively offer recommendations.

By responding to fan comments, the best marketers increase the loyalty and advocacy of already happy customers. The trick here is doing this meaningfully, at scale.

3. Use brand responses to foster a loyal community

Investing in the resources to create a loyal customer pays off, with some estimates showing that a customer’s brand loyalty is worth 10 times as much as a one-off purchase. Nearly 40% of users will become loyal, repeat customers if they feel they are part of a community. A robust fan community customer engagement strategy is key to driving these repeat sales.

Add to this the fact that 43% of customers report spending more money when shopping with brands they’re loyal to, and again we’ve got a solid case showing responding to fan engagement measurably drives ROAS.

How Facebook Encourages Word of Mouth Marketing

Facebook’s Most Relevant Comments section is a big help here – both for users and brands looking to maximize the impact of fan comments.

In the Most Relevant Comments section (the sample of comments shown as users scroll by your ad – comments that catch their attention, and hopefully make them click), Facebook optimizes for:

  • Comments or reactions from the viewing user’s friends.
  • Comments with the most likes or replies.
  • Comments from verified profiles and pages.

Brands have seconds to make the best possible impression. According to Facebook, mobile users spend an average of 1.7 seconds looking at any given piece of content. The first few comments seen beneath an ad have a huge impact on brand perception and your Zero Moment of Truth. Coined by Google in 2011, “Zero Moment of Truth” refers to “the precise moment when users have a need, intent, or question they want answered online.”

Jim Lecinski from Google writes:
“A brand that answers these questions at just the right time scores a double win. It helps improve a consumer's life and stands to gain a competitive advantage over brands that don't.”

If a user doesn’t react favorably to the featured comments beneath your ad, you’ve likely not only lost the sale. You’ve made a bad impression they’ll remember the next time they see your ads. You can use responses to fan comments to make sure this doesn’t happen.


BrandBastion’s Approach: Creating Scalable Customer Engagement Strategies

46% of your brand image comes from your communication. This includes how you as a brand interact with your ads and the user engagement they generate. For a successful ad that gets a lot of love, engaging with fan comments is vital. A neglected fan response isn’t just an instance where you didn't meet user expectations. It’s a missed chance to improve your ROAS.

This said, responding to fan comments at scale is tough. While 95% of companies report having branding and community engagement guidelines, only 25% say that these guidelines are consistently applied.

At BrandBastion, we recommend taking an analytical approach. We help brands craft responses and guidelines for community engagement tailored to the needs of their specific social community. A successful strategy will work at scale while also:

1. Meeting the needs of each comment’s unique user expectations

Is the user giving a short burst of positivity they’re looking for the brand to mirror? Or is the user sharing a detailed success story that makes for an excellent testimonial and glowing review? The branded response given should recognize the intent of the posting user, offering the best user experience in reply.

2. Encouraging continued fan engagement

One way to do this is by incorporating hashtags. But you can also direct users to areas on your website where they can offer testimonials. Asking questions about additional products/services also helps to keep the recommendations flowing.

3. Having enough variety of tone, language, and calls to action to flow naturally in user conversation

The only thing worse than a missed opportunity to engage with a fan is engagement that sounds robotic.

4. Incorporating social language (including emojis) that reinforces your brand voice

Beauty disruptor Frank Body does an amazing job here. Frank Body managed to generate $20 million in revenue while taking less than $10,000 in initial investments in just four years by positioning themselves as a highly-engaged brand. And their powerful fan community response strategy isn’t complicated. Frank Body’s social team regularly responds to fan comments using only an emoji that’s in-line with their brand voice, like 😘 and 💞. The team’s strategy is backed up by research showing Facebook posts with emojis see 33% more comments and 57% more likes. Ultimately, this leads to sales won through community engagement.

Frank bod customer engagement strategy on Instagram

The 3 Most Common Categories of Community Engagement

The correct strategy for responding to fan community customer engagement will vary greatly depending on your brand, the community of fans you’ve already built, as well as your volume of fan engagement.

Some of the most common pitfalls we’ve seen in developing customer engagement strategies happen when brands develop too few responses for their levels of engagement, or implement responses using language that is too narrow to address the majority of comments from their fans.

In helping some of the world’s leading brands manage, grow, and capitalize on fan community comments, we’ve found that most fall into the following categories:

1. Short and Sweet Comments

These are brief comments from users who leave a quick burst of positivity on your ad. Often, the comment is no longer than one or two words paired with fan emojis. This might be:

  • Pretty😍
  • Amazing product😍
  • Gorgeous 💕
  • So pretty

For comments like this, it’s important brands respond in kind, and match the tone of the user engagement. Make sure you have a good number of responses that mirror this energy with a quick burst of appreciation. Great strategies to implement include:

  • Using brand-voice appropriate emojis as your response (again, Frank Body is a great example here).
  • Developing a variety of ways to say “Thank you!” that incorporate your brand’s voice. The more variety your responses have, the more evergreen they will be. This gives you a customer engagement strategy that's natural and resonates at scale. If a user comments “Wow!! This product is amazing!” rather than responding with something generic (like “Thank you so much!”), consider more out-of-the box responses like “So happy you’re loving it!”; “Fantastic to hear!”; or “This really makes our day!”
  • Incorporate branded hashtags if you have them developed for your fan community. For profiles with more than 100,000 followers, this is especially effective, as using hashtags in comments shows a 16% increase in reach.

2. Success Stories

These fan comments will be more detailed, with users sharing how their life wouldn’t be the same without your brand.

  • The meals you guys come up with are so amazing! I’ve been cooking with you for two years, and my whole family LOVES it!
  • Me and my wife met here almost 10 years ago. It's amazing what a simple hi can lead too sometimes.
  • This lipstick is my favorite 💕! I put it on every day before leaving the house, and I love the confidence it brings! I can do anything!!
  • You guys do an excellent job of not only teaching students about the subject, but how to network and prepare to work in the industry. Proud to have you on my resume!

In responding to these comments, we encourage brands to develop longer, more engaged responses. For brands that have a dedicated space to collect user testimonials, this is a great opportunity to direct users here to further capitalize on the glowing review.

3. Praise About the Product/Service

In this type of comment, users go into detail about a specific product/service, sharing why this specifically makes your brand amazing. If you’re lucky, this comment will also include a user recommendation.

  • The stuffed peppers I cooked with you guys tonight are my new favorite meal!!
  • Love this foundation. It's completely natural looking yet perfects any "issues" and makes a perfect canvas.
  • I’m obsessed with the meal planner on your app! Not only does it help me lose weight, but it makes shopping so much easier!

This type of praise is a fantastic opportunity to continue the discussion. In crafting responses to this set of fan community comments, we encourage brands to:

  • Ask users what they love most about the product or service.
  • Ask if the users have tried any of your other products/services. This works wonders for cross-promotion and increased product exposure.
  • Encourage the user to share photos with your branded hashtag. On Facebook, this has a big impact, with images generating an 85% user interaction rate on top of increasing shares by 35%.

Interested in learning how BrandBastion can help you achieve your goals?

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