Winning Over the Skeptics

Is social marketing really worth it?
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This story appears in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Social media marketing is about to explode. But as you rush to harness the viral power of blogs and social sites, be warned: Many of the consumers who are researching products don't trust these sites.

According to JupiterKagan Inc.'s August 2006 report "Viral Marketing: Budgeting Beyond Social Media," an estimated 20 percent of advertisers plan to use viral marketing in the next year. Unfortunately, the study showed that 69 percent of online users don't trust social media such as blogs and public forums.

There is some good news, though. Consumers are twice as likely to trust product information on a company website or professional review site. So why not use social media to feature the benefits showcased on these sites?

This is exactly what Emily Riley, lead analyst of the report, recommends. This reinforces your message to the consumers who have already seen your site or product reviews. And you can encourage consumers to do more research by visiting sites they already trust. Just make sure your message is consistent on these sites as well.

Riley also suggests testing several versions of your message on a small audience. Find out which message consumers trust most. Then launch a full-scale, viral marketing campaign.

Sure, social media users are skeptical. But that doesn't mean you can't market to them. You can communicate your message effectively by showing your credibility.

Edition: July 2017

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