In today's technologically advanced world, people are connected in multiple ways. The line between business colleagues and friends is becoming increasingly blurred, thanks to social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Because of the overlap of personal life and work life, have business compliments become less valid, almost as if they're a favor for a friend?
The Trust Factor
It depends upon how trustworthy you are as a person. The Internet's biggest search engines have placed increased importance on business reviews, as most customers can now extensively research before they buy. While there have been several cases of companies buying fake reviews, compliments, and comments to make themselves look good, consumers can usually spot a fake, over complimentary content a mile away. The best businesses look to earn good reviews and endorsements from customers and business associates just by providing a great product or service.
Because it has become easier to reach out to someone in the business world through multiple online channels, it is also easier to become "friends." Social media plays such a large part in the life of the average person that we now feel that we know someone, despite only having met virtually. This personal contact is a good way to give genuine compliments through the web.
Getting a Foot in the Door
Gaining contact with an authority in the business world via a quick message on LinkedIn or Facebook is typically quick and painless. These connections are great ways to enhance your personal profile and business prospects. On LinkedIn, for example, the new "endorsements" option makes it easier for a better-known businessperson to endorse another professional. It's just a click of a button, rather than a requirement to write personal commentary. In order to get these endorsements, however, you need to establish a working relationship with the individual, which can be easily initiated online.
In some cases, companies advertise products and services as free samples. By doing this, not only does the customer gain a favorable opinion of the company, he is able to experience the product firsthand, prior to purchase. Both of these actions will entice the customer to give a favorable endorsement to other potential customers. The problem with this method is finding a way to share these endorsements in a way that doesn't make it seem as though the company is "plying" for these positive reviews.
Companies have to leave it to the blogger's discretion as to whether he discloses that the product or service he's reviewing was a freebie or not. In all honesty, it shouldn't matter; the blogger will most likely only write about the giveaway if he actually likes it and if his audience will engage with the content. It's inappropriate— and misguided—for the supplying company to ask for a review on the particular blogger's site, since it should be confident enough in its product or service that it alone will impress the blogger, persuading him to write about it on his own free will.
Spreading the Love
When giving a compliment of your own online, there's a similarity to real life: Since some will wonder if you're just doing it in the hopes of getting a favor further down the line, there's a level of precision that goes into how you word it.
- Be genuine – Don't go over the top, saying how great someone is, if you don't personally know him or her. Keep it short and on-topic.
- Don't over-compliment – An endorsement will become less genuine if you hand one out to everyone who asks. Make it seem personal, exclusive, and honest.
- Don't be afraid to be positive – It's perfectly okay to be as enthusiastic as you want. A happy review will seem more legitimate and trustworthy to customers.
- Make it public – The best way to give compliments is to do so publicly. The more people who are able to read it, the better. Public demonstrations of trust resonate more fully with potential buyers.
Issuing compliments online is a win-win; not only do prospective customers get more information on a service or product they're eyeing – which is what they want – but you're demonstrating your goodwill toward other companies that deserve the kudos.
Google and other big search engines have placed a renewed focus on customer reviews. Google's acquisition of Zagat reinforced the importance of unbiased third-party reviews; it's another step in Google's quest to rid its first pages of search results of undeserving players who spam readers.
Because of this, it's better for companies to jump into the review game, rather than delaying the inevitable. Compliments that are hard-earned, relevant, and genuine will go a lot further than any traditional marketing ever could. And what company couldn't use free advertising from its customers? Let them do the hard work so you can do yours – creating an awesome product or service.
Louis Rix is the marketing director for Netcars.com and director and co-founder of Carfinance247.co.uk.