Consumer-to-consumer marketing, word of mouth, earned media – whatever you call it, it is a powerful influencer related to purchasing. A Neilsen study earlier this year found that “ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising – an increase of 18 percent since 2007.”
That same study found that while most of the advertising dollars are spent on television (it has the broadest reach compared to other media), “consumers around the world continue to see recommendations from friends and online consumer opinions as by far the most credible.”
San Francisco-based Extole helps retailers tap into this power of earned media with a suite of social advocacy tools that enable consumers, or “brand advocates,” to share their enthusiasm with their friends across multiple channels like Facebook, email, and other social networks.
The three-year-old company has crafted four product offerings around social promotion, referrals, and social stories to build on this brand activity.
“Fundamentally, we have always been focused on the power of word of mouth,” explains Angela Bandlow, vice president of marketing at Extole. “What we see is that when a lot of companies look at social marketing – they take their traditional approach to marketing and put brand-focused messages on social networks. The true power of social marketing lies with tapping customer advocates to get them out there spreading the word on the company’s behalf.”
Bandlow offers a client case study that demonstrates the approach in practice; the results are impressive.
Folica is an online hair care product retailer that relies heavily on friend-to-friend recommendations. “If you knew about Folica, it’s because one of your friends told you about it,” Bandlow explains. Extole amplified the reach of this, and capitalized on the brand advocates with an embeddable offer on the homepage – tell your friends, get $10 off your first order – and your friend gets $10 off, too.
In the first 30 days, the campaign resulted in:
- 21,000 shares over Facebook, Twitter, and email;
- 6,000 new brand advocates with an average of 4 shares a person;
- 16% conversion on sales from email links;
- Successful conversions from Facebook and Twitter, too (with a higher click-through from Facebook); and
- Email with a 93% open rate.
It almost goes without saying how spectacular this open rate is. People open email from their friends, period.
Extole has impressive numbers of its own. Founded in 2009 and headquartered in San Francisco with an office in New York as well, Extole has over 80 employees, over 200 customers (brands and agencies) across retail, ecommerce, media, technology, entertainment, and automotive, with a year-over-year revenue increase of 400 percent in 2011.
In June, the company released a product called Social Expressions, which has built-in support for Facebook’s Open Graph to capture customer sentiment, reactions, and expressions in order to create “viral stories.”
The Open Graph moves brand activity beyond “liking” a retailer’s page and integrates a shopping or browsing experience with third-party apps that embed activity – including photos – on Facebook’s timeline, newsfeed, and ticker. Extole’s Social Expressions offers a stronger “call to action” to capture how a consumer feels about a product – for instance, a wine merchant’s product page offers the ability to “Want It,” “Try It,” or “Recommend It” – and those buttons broadcast that sentiment on Facebook.
Contextually relevant interactions can now be analyzed, providing information on reach and impact on sales. Since the data is from the Open Graph, demographic information is available not only on brand advocates, but on their networks as well.
This is where the social story is created, and where brands have the ability to identify their most active champions.
Extole offers additional case studies via a blog that illustrate how consumers have changed the way they interact with brands, and how the investment in consumer-to-consumer marketing can seriously pay off.