June 26, 2006
Blog Entry

Social Marketing -- How to Get More Visitors to Interact on Your Online Forum

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

Testimonials certainly aid conversions; but let's face it, who completely trusts those happy quotes plastered on your site?

Yes, a happy customer probably said or wrote these things.
However, in the end, everyone knows testimonials were hand-picked and possibly solicited by the marketing department.

Which is one of the reasons why social networking ranging from consumer-driven ratings/reviews to word-of-mouth content (blogs, forums, forwarded email, etc.) is so powerful. People trust other people far more than they trust marketing.

And rightfully so.

The problem for many marketers, though, is in encouraging this commentary online. Customers are busy. Although their word-of-mouth or review post may be your life's blood, it's all not important for them. If you bribe them, then the entire review is suspect.

Sherpa Reader Ophir Prusak of RESPeRATE, whose marketing we
profile in a recent Case Study, had that problem. (See link to story below.)

His Web team created an online forum for customer comments. Like most ecommmerce sites, he decided *against* moderation except for removing any egregious spam. "It's definitely unedited information." Also, the forum clearly indicates when a posting is by a RESPeRATE staffer. There's no undercover faux stuff going on.

However, there weren't a lot of postings either. Ophir's team posted links on the main site to drive traffic to the forum. Then he talked with the customer service team. Turns out happy customers were phoning in to discuss their satisfaction with the product. They just weren't posting online.

"Now we tell them we'd appreciate it if you'd go to the forum and share your opinions with other people." So far users and staff have started 85 topical threads on the forum. Only a few hundred people actually post, but tens of thousands read the postings.

Does it help? "You're not allowed to say you're FDA cleared even if it's true," says Ophir. However, if a customer says so on a forum, the comment can stay published. "The forum is one of the best ways to let users tell a story, to give them a way to discuss their experiences."

What would happen if a customer posted a highly negative review of the product? Ophir would be honor-bound to allow that comment to stay live. In fact on June 24th, a new member posted, "As a new owner I am hopeful of achieving the results everyone posts. I am surprised that I have not seen one negative post. Are negative posts just deleted?"

"We do not delete posts," a staffer quickly replied.

Useful links related to this article:
CASE STUDY: How to Use Email Autoresponders to Convert Skeptical Consumers (+ Delivery Test Results)

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