#b2bhuddle : Nick Garner on social proof and the zero moment of truth

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Nick at #B2BHuddle.jpg

Nick Garner, CEO, SearchWorks Content Marketing

What do you employ content for? The marketing funnel is a great concept, because you can hang so much off it. It has phases – awareness, consideration, preference, action and loyalty. And consideration is the interesting bit. The reality is less like a funnel, and more like a big bowl of spaghetti. It’s the ecosystem we’re interested in – but it’s complex to get our heads around. So people obsesses over simple ideas like Facebook Likes.

We all like to think that a “blast” of marketing will help us. It kinda does. Out of 100 people coming into the funnel, one or two will become customers. Maybe a conversation with 10 would be better – but which 10?

Google has been well ahead of the curve in understanding the internet as an ecosystem. They funded a project with a 5000 people panel called Zero moment of Truth – ZMOT – about online buying habits. In the old days, you had a budget and used it to broadcast like crazy. The first moment of truth is when you buy from the widget maker who has advertised so much. The second moment of truth is when I feedback – “they were expensive and not so great”. The zero moment of truth lies between the broadcast and the first moment of truth – it’s where people seek social proof. This is fed by the second moment of truth, when they leave feedback online. The Google research showed that 84% of the group were effected by the ZMOT – more than the other two moments.

People do research. If you’re buying a car – your research early, and pay very careful attention to reviews. People were using 5.3 source sin 2010. In 2011? 10.4… Online makes it easy. Different industries have different research cycles. For cars, the weighting is a distance before purchase. Groceries and restaurants? Just before purchase.

Age changes ZMOT – young children are developing better spelling to get the search results they want. The millenials are in their teens, and the internet became important when they were small children. Gen X? About half their lives. Young boomers like the speaker and I? They’ve had to put the time in to learn. Gladwell suggests that 10,000 is needed to become an expert. Have you done that much on the internet? The older the demographic, the less likely they are to have done that.

Authenticity is another way of saying “don’t talk bullshit – people will see through it”. The young research more, but leave less feedback. Gen Xers do more feedback.

What can you do? Brands love numbers – you can benchmark things with numbers. The Online Persuasion Score™ is a variation of the Net Promoter Score – and academics say it sucks. But it’s still useful. You add up the positive percentages, deduct the negative ones, and end up with a result. Fun online stuff isn’t persuasive for purchasing, but deep material on metallurgy might be, for real buyers… OPS works well for search results, for example.

Créme de la Mer has a search problem – one of the top results is a Daily Mail story saying it costs £530 a pot. Nike has a sweatshop problem in its search results, at least. In the end, Online PR is about getting search results. Social Media metrics are all lovely and cuddly – but where’s the engagement? It’s good for ambient awareness, but what else? Consideration is what we want and search wins. You spend the right amount of time on ranking in Google and you’ll get the visits.

Hubspot: what keywords are people using for questions about the product? Are the answers showing up – and are they coming from other people? That’s what matters for social proof. That’s what you measure with the OPS™ . The search results at the moment are dominated by their own pages, which doesn’t tell you much about them – low OPS™ score…

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.