The sharing economy has arrived. And if the multiple ways in which it is manifesting itself in the real world (Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Snapgoods, Rent the Runway, HomeExchange, city bicycles, carpool lanes, social media, and the list goes on) is not proof enough, we have only to look at art imitating life, as it so often does.
In a new T.V. drama called “Wisdom of the Crowd,” Jeremy Piven plays a Silicon Valley tech innovator who uses crowdsourcing to find his daughter’s killer by creating a digital platform on which the entire world can share criminal evidence. An Enterprise car rental commercial features Joel McHale donning a wool cap to appeal to the Millennials who regularly use ride sharing. A feature documentary called “Shareconomy” explores the rise of the sharing economy, which the film claims is “revolutionizing society.”
That the marketing industry would also be affected by the sharing culture should come as no surprise. According to marketing guru Jon Wuebben, it is one of the mega trends of the future of marketing. Consumers want to learn from user-generated content, and they want to be the “experts” in the process as well.
Sharing is a natural act, and everyone, no matter their age, wants to belong to a community. Psychologically and emotionally, the concept of sharing – not owning – products, services or ideas does not require much convincing. But how can marketers leverage this human instinct to share to their advantage?
Establish a robust social media presence. Social media platforms epitomize the sharing economy, and vice versa. Entire communities, often made up of total strangers (the opinions of which Millennials have been found to trust over that of friends and family), come together to share comments, experiences, advice, reviews, and more. In today’s world of interconnectedness, your business must have multiple social media platforms in place. While “possession is 9/10th of the law,” as they say, more is needed than simply having a social media presence.
Actively engage your social communities. Make comments, conversations and reviews easy to provide on your website and social media pages. True, this may invite negative commentary (which can be managed by an administrator), but try to respond to and thank these visitors anyway, because people who hear back from a business are more apt to use them again, despite an initial challenge. This may seem counterintuitive, but customers knowing that their voice is heard goes a long way, and a complaint gives you a backdoor opportunity to show how much you value their satisfaction. Inviting reviews also begets valuable insight into your business and prospects, not only by way of your own platforms, but through online review sites as well.
Tap your best customers. Don’t be afraid to ask your most satisfied customers to offer their positive feedback and experiences. This will not only improve your presence on the review sites mentioned above, it will energize your own website and social media. Ask happy customers to post their success stories, or offer to write them on their behalf (with their approval), and be sure to respond back to them for all to see your generous attitude and gratitude!
Solicit audience content. Ask questions of your audiences, invite them to share their experiences with, or opinions about, your services or industry – or provoke conversations about something unrelated to your business. Maybe audiences could offer their best remedies for the “Mundane Mondays,” for example. On your end, don’t hesitate to share something funny, entertaining, thought-provoking, or comment-worthy. Create a “buzz,” but steer clear of anything that could be construed as political. The more user-generated content you have, the better your brand’s search engine rankings and online visibility.
Use multiple sharing tools. 89 percent of consumers use search engines (which also point to social media platforms and owned media) to help them make purchasing decisions. In addition to creating engaging social media content, be sure to also have a regular blog, video uploads, white papers, case studies, e-books, etc. that can easily be found and shared.
Incentivize your audience. Offer something truly desirable in exchange for customer engagement. Incentives such as referral rewards, gift cards, discounted prices on services, complimentary lunch/dinner…there are many ways to motivate engagement, and participants of the sharing economy not only want rewards, they expect them.
Think outside the box. Really. Yes, there’s an irony in using what’s become a cliché in reference to new and creative thinking, but a team of creative professionals can help you come up with something your competitors would never envision doing. With the online world packed to the gills with boundless information, companies can’t afford to blend in and stay within the margins.
Be fresh, stay fresh. Once you’ve created and enabled multiple channels of user-engaging, sharable content, it is critical to stay on top of it with fresh, regular contributions. Outdated material and old posts say volumes about your brand, none of it good. Not only does new content help SEO (search engine optimization), putting your site above others when people browse the Internet, it also demonstrates that you’re continually alert, curious, learning, teaching, relevant and “checked in.”
While these pointers are proven tactics for success, they’re not always easy to implement. Let our marketing experts help you make the most of the sharing economy that is here to stay and certain to flourish.
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