As a brand, it's important to have reviews posted about your products on your site; it not only gives you feedback from buyers but helps convert new sales at the point of purchase. So, if you're not asking the one question a 2003 Harvard Business Review study pointed to as the most important predictor of top-line growth, "Would you recommend this company/product to a friend?," then you're missing out on an opportunity to build brand advocates. Plus, if I'm buying something online I haven't used before, I'll look for those reviews to guide my decision about the product.
With more than 70% of bloggers posting product reviews and many of them now identifying themselves as a "brand ambassador" on their sites, one has to wonder what does this mean? How are they speaking for the brand? Are they a paid staffer? Can I ask them questions about products and get good answers?
Several times in the past, I've facilitated product reviews for brands by matching a blogger to a product. On a few occasions, the brand was not happy that the reviewer posted an honest opinion about the product, following a disclosure policy to remain uninfluenced and give an honest opinion.
Yet, some disclosure policies can leave serious doubt about the authentic voice coming from that reviewer, such as this one that states, "The blogger may receive compensation that can influence posts ... and don't always identify paid posts as such, and any claim on a product review should be verified with the manufacturer." Why would a brand engage a "brand ambassador" when it has policies that are that ambiguous? For that matter, if the brand doesn't want to listen to the reviewer's true experience about its product and encourages positive or neutral posts, how long will it be a viable brand?
No wonder that, when digital moms are researching new products, they're starting to look for user-generated video reviews so they can see the product in action before they decide to buy.
Today's savvy moms want to know that brands have selected their spokespeople based on research done beyond page ranks, that they know what their disclosure policies are, have chosen them for their domain knowledge/expertise on a topic that aligns with the product/service and how their sphere of influence reaches beyond their site, Twitter presence and Facebook page and into their social circles off line (translation: they're more than a reviewer; they're a trusted voice). Most importantly, we want to know that brands will listen to what we're saying about their products and take our feedback seriously.
Don't short-change your brand in the area of building trusted advocates, ambassadors, and relationships. We're looking for authentic voices to follow and engage with. If we don't find them or don't like what we're finding, you'll be in crisis management mode before you know it and be a case study of what not to do at the next social media conference.