Even as digital technology advances at unprecedented rates, nothing is more powerful when it comes to consumer buying decisions than simple word of mouth. In fact, for marketers the most significant use cases for online behavior are those in which social media serves to amplify the power of word of mouth and trusted recommendations. We all know that the opinions of friends and family, will trump all other sources of advertising, every time. So how do we as online marketers put the power of social preferences to work for us? Here are some simple but effective tactics to start with.

Use your customers' social network to acquire new customers

Each time a customer makes the decision to purchase from your website, it’s accompanied by a certain measure of satisfaction, even excitement. “This is what I was looking for!” It is in that moment when your customer’s enthusiasm is highest, so have you empowered them to share it? You’ve probably seen it before, retail websites include links to share purchases on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest at the same time a customer is placing an order to drive product awareness and buzz.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 8.58.40 AM

How valuable is this simple social action? Enough that some sites even offer discounts and other incentives to customers who share their favorite products or purchases on social networks. One friend’s excitement on securing the perfect fit or a great deal is far more likely to incentivize another to seek the same deal. And friends socially connected are more likely to share common interests. It’s in our nature as consumers to share our commercial conquests. Take advantage.

Tap into social behavior to improve customer experiences

Typically an online relationship between a brand and customer starts with an email address. But expanding that digital connection to include social media can not only strengthen the bond, it can also provide you with more meaningful insight into your customers preferences.

For example, encouraging customers to engage with your brand on Pinterest can provide a wealth of information, from favorite products to related brands they also love. This allows you to make more targeted recommendations in both your social and online interactions. Being aware of your customers’ multi-tiered relationships can also help you amplify their activity. For example, you can welcome website visitors who follow you on Twitter and invite them to tweet about their visit. Or you can serve targeted social ads to customers on Facebook with recommendations based on products they may have recently viewed or purchased. It’s multichannel at it’s best.

Sephora does a great job of interacting with their customers across their social channels:

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.01.14 AM

Bring social happenings back to your website

Your socially engaged customers have a lot to say about your products, so why not make the most of their opinions? Don’t be afraid to share some of the testimonials you collect via Twitter, Pinterest and online reviews. It’s one way to amplify word of mouth beyond an individual customer’s network. Even better, use social “performance” to drive consumer interest.

For example, the website Smashbox uses social buzz to create a category of promotion for products that are getting the most play in their customers’ social networks. Smashbox celebrates Facebook, Twitter and Instagram shares from customers excited about their recent purchases, and promotes them up front on their site. And they make it easy for visitors to find products that are recently liked, most liked, and best of all products that have been liked by visitors’ friends.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.02.47 AM

Find the communities in your latent social network

We’ve talked about making the most of your customers who are active in the major social networks, but what about leveraging the power of social connections right on your own site?

Think about this. There are groups of people shopping on your website right now who have commonalities that help them identify with each other and potentially with your brand. These could be anything from shared passions and interests to similar life stages and demographics. Your website’s ability to help these customers find their peers and people like them to connect socially will further enhance the power of your online community with customers already advocating for your brand.

Madison Island is showing their customers what like-minded shoppers are reviewing and buying, to promote product discovery and purchase validation.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.05.24 AM

In an upcoming blog post we’ll talk about how to activate these online communities and make the most of their influence. And we’ll share how Evergage helps clients create interactive communities of buyers that not only increase conversions, but also provide rich insights that can be used to continually optimize and personalize the customer experience.

This blog was originally posted on the Conversion Conference blog