Morphing of the Testimonial

Once upon a time (not that long ago), marketers relied on well-orchestrated testimonials to prove the benefits of their products and services.  The formula was pretty simple: Get a well-known person, an executive of a well-known organization or even a “typical” customer to say something nice about your product or service.  Then use the testimonial in various media.  The more specific the comment about your product or service, the better.

I was thinking about this because I am working with a financial services client in a segment where use of testimonials to discuss results is against the rules.  This is not all bad news because the testimonial of yesterday has quickly morphed into the  “like” and comment of today.  So instead of the company saying “this is what a customer said” the customer can say it directly.  I guess it is just another example of disintermediation.

Some of the most effective testimonials today are in social media, primarily because you know the person “liking” or commenting on a company, product or service.  As I discussed in Like vs. Love, there is a big difference between “liking”, which takes just a click of a button, and commenting on something you like, which takes at least a few seconds to type a comment.  While both the like and comment have value because they are seen by the person’s friends and connections, I put much higher value on comments because they say the person was passionate enough about the product or service to write something.

Another tool in Facebook is “checking in” which allows customers to check in at their favorite store, restaurant or attractions, which shows up in their friends’ news feeds. These are valuable because I don’t think many people are going to check-in somewhere they are not having a good experience and/or don’t frequent often.  The check-in says my friend likes this place and maybe I should check it out.

Of course the downside of comments is when a customer is not happy with your company.  It is very easy for the customer to voice his or her displeasure and this will be viewed by the person’s friends or connections pretty quickly.  The upside to this is that the company can respond to the issue and try to make things right, if the company monitors social media well.  In the past, the company might never know there was an issue.

How can companies encourage “testimonials” through social media?  On Facebook, they can offer a discount or something for free (maybe a dessert at a restaurant) if the customer shows they checked in or liked the establishment during their visit.  Or companies on Facebook or LinkedIn can send a thank-you reply to a customer who wrote a flattering comment.

The testimonial as we once knew it is all but dead.  Or it is at least so outdated as to be of little value.  But the ability to harness social media to generate more genuine testimonials can have a greater impact because these testimonials are coming from people the viewer knows and probably trusts.

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