3 Easy Steps to Harness the Power of Online Advocacy and Peer Sharing

By eleventy marketing group

The Internet has changed us. It has changed the way we interact with one another. It has changed the way we interact with organizations. More importantly, the Web has placed the power to influence in the hands of every woman and man. In the click of a mouse, the voice of one can quickly become the voice of many. Good word-of-mouth on the Internet can propel an organization; conversely, some bad buzz can sink an idea or decision in an instant (see Bank of America’s proposed debit fee as an example).

In our Web-connected world, people can share information and rally around a cause in a matter of days, hours, or even minutes. The power of peer sharing has never been more potent than right now. For businesses and nonprofits, recognizing that power has become imperative for growth and success. By harnessing the power of online advocacy and peer sharing, you can empower your supporters to spread the word and expand your reach.

Creating big noise by tapping into small circles

A recent Ad Age article (How Content Is Really Shared: Close Friends, Not ‘Influencers’) used data to debunk the myth of a small number of “influencers” who can spread the word better than anyone else. Instead, they say the power lies in a lot of people sharing information in small groups – peer groups. In other words, it’s not a couple mighty shares by “important” people in large circles that makes things go viral. It’s a massive number of shares in smaller circles. What does that mean for organizations? It means effective online marketing is about getting people talking and sharing with their friends and family. Before things grow big, the have to start small.

BuzzFeed looked at the 50 stories that received the most Facebook traffic since mid-2007 and revealed:

  • 9-1 – Median ratio of Facebook views to shares (this means for every Facebook share, only nine people visited the story)
  • 5-1 – Median ratio of Twitter views to shares

Word-of-mouth still trumps all other mediums

People don’t move in crowds on the Internet, they converse in circles. In these small circles, the seeds of influence are planted. When a seed is planted firmly in the right environment, it will grow and expand outward, branching off in different directions. That’s how online influence works. When a grove of trees eventually sprouts up, it means you’ve officially “gone viral”. Word-of-mouth remains the best, most effective form of marketing out there. When it comes to impact and compelling action, nothing can beat a referral or endorsement from a person in your social circle. Think about it. Which mechanic are you more likely to go to – the one your best friend recommends, or the one with the really good TV commercial?

According to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries:

  • 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising (an increase of 18% since 2007)
  • Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging, with 70% of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust messages on this platform (an increase of 15% in four years)

Three steps to better leverage peer sharing:

#1 TARGET Identify your existing online supporters and incorporate different ways to reach out to them: email, social media, your blog, etc. Compel them to take action and start sharing. Give them an incentive. For a nonprofit, that can be as simple as seeing how much you can raise to support a project or cause. For a consumer business, it could be getting 10 friends to sign up to receive a free product or service discount. Provide that spark and let them light the fire.

#2 CREATE The Web is about instant information consumption. Put your message together in a way that is ideal for sharing on the Web. Make it simple and easy to consume, with a single, powerful call to action. You only have a few seconds to grab people, so the more clear and concise you can be the better. Use imagery to pull people in and illustrate your message. If you want people to share your message, you have to make it a message worth sharing.

#3 FACILITATE Make it as easy as possible for people to pass along your message and get their friends involved. Give them a convenient Web portal or a link to share. The more difficult and time-consuming it is to share your message, the less likely people are to do it. As much as possible, do the work for them. Hand them a personalized Web page so all they have to do is invite their friends to visit. Give them a single button they can click to post a pre-written message on Facebook or Twitter.

Use your greatest asset to your advantage

An organization’s greatest asset is the people who already support your cause or purchase your products or services. With the Web, your supporters can become your most vocal proponents. Create partnerships with these individuals, and they can help grow your customer base and expand your reach in an organic and authentic way. In the process, you will form stronger bonds and more active and engaged relationships with your existing customers. Put the power of peer influence to work for your organization.