How important is it to get Facebook recommendations? Can facebook recommendations go viral?
One out of every three users on Facebook, or approximately 800 million people use their platform for reviews and recommendations. Additionally, two out of three users, approximately 1.6 billion people, visit the page of a local business every week.
So why aren’t more brands using recommendations?
At this point, most local brands use recommendations accidentally – their customers take the initiative and post a positive (or negative) recommendation on their own. It’s a consumer-driven phenomenon that should be brand-driven.
Because of virality. With the right approach, positive recommendations can spread like wildfire, boosting the traffic, leads and sales to your business.
Here’s what we’ll cover today:
Let’s get started.
Why are Facebook recommendations important to your business?
Here’s how Facebook describes it:
“Recommendations: Your customers are your best ambassadors. When people look for places to eat, shop or book a service, they often ask their friends and families where to go. That’s why we’re making it easier for people to recommend your business by bringing Recommendations to your Page. People will now be able to post a recommendation for your business, including text, photos and tags directly on your Page. And recommendations will also help you reach people while they’re searching for or talking about your business.”
They’re talking about reviews.
Almost a billion people rely on Facebook for local search and review recommendations. If you’re a local business, your customers rely on Facebook for person to person recommendations.
Is this engagement consistent across the site for each page?
Are pages with more fans less engaging?
Not at all.
These lower figures on higher ranked pages show that Facebook is throttling organic reach. This is due to:
- A commitment to friends and family. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook held a private webinar reemphasizing its commitment to “meaningful content.” In 2016, Facebook made adjustments to its newsfeed algorithm, prioritizing content from friends and family over pages.
- An exponential increase in content. According to Facebook:
“There is now far more content being made and there is time to absorb it. On average, 1,500 stories could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on. “
- A pay to play environment. When fan pages launched in 2007, brands were able to post unlimited messages to their fan base. Fast-forward to 2012 and only 16% of a brand’s fans see their posts. This trend continued with organic reach declining to 6.5 % in 2014, amplifying Facebook’s revenues in the process.
So we’re basically summarizing what you already know?
Most of the world uses Facebook, which means the vast majority of your customers also use Facebook to find local businesses and brands.
How other platforms compare to Facebook recommendations
Where does Facebook rank with mainstream competitors?
In terms of total visits, Google is still the undisputed champion (especially when YouTube is factored into the mix). However, when it comes to social media, Facebook is still the undisputed champion – especially when you factor in notable acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook has international appeal.
Almost every country is represented on Facebook – notable exceptions being China, Iran, Syria and North Korea. Almost every industry is represented in some way whether it’s directly via pages or indirectly via groups.
Here’s the thing.
Facebook recommendations don’t receive the same kind of love and attention online reviews receive on other platforms. Google Reviews, TripAdvisor and Yelp have dedicated a kind of primary focus to their review platforms. Facebook, in many ways, it feels like an afterthought.
Their users don’t care.
As we’ve seen above, customers use Facebook to achieve the results they’re looking for with or without Facebook’s direct involvement.This can be formal.
If your customers congregate on Facebook, they’re probably in the market for your product or service at some point.
Business goals for brands on Facebook
Facebook is a versatile platform.
They offer more than 40 different products and services to their users. Brand goals on Facebook are pretty much what you’d expect on other review platforms, with a few atypical goals added to the mix.
You know your business.
You also have a good understanding of the goals that best fit your business – leads for service providers, sales for local storefronts, bookings for specialty services, e.g., accounting, haircuts, home services, etc.
You have a good sense of the goals you’re pursuing in business.
Where do you start?
Setting up recommendations for Facebook
First things first, you’re going to need a Facebook page.
I’m going to assume that you already have a Facebook page set up and ready to go. If you don’t have one in place already here’s a full tutorial complete with expert tips, strategies and tactics. This video will walk you through all of the settings required to set your profile up properly.
This tutorial is a helpful review.
All set? Great!
Now it’s time to set up recommendations on your Facebook page. Head over to your Facebook page and I’ll guide you through the process of setting up recommendations on your page.
1. On your Facebook page, click “Edit Page Info.“
2. On your settings page, on the left sidebar, click “Templates and Tabs.“
3. Scroll down to “Tabs.” At the bottom of the page, click the “Add a Tab” button.
4. Scroll down the “Add a Tab” window and select “Reviews” from the list. Click “Add Tab” then click “Close.“
5. You should see “Reviews” in the same Tab section from step three, in the same row. Click “Settings.”
6. Make sure the “Show Reviews” button is toggled to “ON.” Copy the URL of your page’s review tab if you’d like to share it right away.
And that’s it!
What about reviewers? What will they see?
Reviewers will be asked “Do You Recommend ____?” along with a “Yes” or “No option.” If reviewers answer yes, they’ll be encouraged to add tags, photos and additional information in their recommendation. If their answer is No, reviewers will be encouraged to share additional information.
As far as review platforms go, these steps are fairly straightforward. What’s not straightforward is optimizing customer feedback to maximize virality.
How do you do it?
Optimizing recommendations on Facebook
Optimizing customer recommendations is the first step in inducing virality. I covered this briefly in a previous post on Facebook recommendations.
Facebook has built-in virality.
To recap, this virality expresses itself in three distinct ways.
1. Information cascade refers to herd behavior, where the decisions of one person impact the future decisions of others. For example, a popular restaurant will have an easier time attracting new customers as more people will choose to eat there due to their popularity.
2. Keeping up with the Joneses: It’s an idiom we’re all familiar with. People are comparing themselves to one another using opportunity, privilege, access and the accumulation of material goods as a benchmark for social class.
3. The Gini Coefficient is an index that measures the amount of income inequality for a particular area. The Gini Coefficient measures material wealth relative to others in a particular area or sphere. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found neighbors of lottery winners felt social pressure to compete with winners.
What does this mean?
Recommendations amplify these social components in a given direction, depending on whether the recommendations you receive are positive or negative.
Why is this important?
There’s a formula for virality. Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, shared their now-famous paper entitled “What makes online content viral?“
Their discovery is fascinating.
It’s not just about valence – the quality of emotion (e.g., anger = negative valence, joy = positive valence, etc.), that makes the difference. When it comes to virality, activation is the key to success.
What does this mean?
Well, anger, fear and sadness are all characterized as negative emotions. But we don’t respond to them the same way. Anger and fear create a heightened state of arousal or activation. Sadness does the opposite; it decreases arousal, acting as a deactivator of sorts.
Here’s a quote from their paper.
“Anger, anxiety, and sadness are all negative emotions, for example, but while anger and anxiety are characterized by states of heightened arousal or activation, sadness is characterized by low arousal or deactivation (Barrett and Russell 1998).
We suggest that these differences in arousal shape social transmission (see also Berger 2011). Arousal is a state of mobilization. While low arousal or deactivation is characterized by relaxation, high arousal or activation is characterized by activity (for a review, see Heilman 1997). Indeed, this excitatory state has been shown to increase action related behaviors such as getting up to help others (Gaertner and Dovidio 1977) and responding faster to offers in negotiations (Brooks and Schweitzer 2011)”
Activation produces action.
This means emotions characterized by high activation are far more likely to be shared.
CGP Grey discusses these thought germs, elaborating on this study in a way that’s easy to understand.
The standouts are clear, aren’t they?
These all have some impact on virality, all except sadness, which had a deactivating effect.
This sounds confusing.
How does this help you create viral reviews on Facebook?
Activation gives you an idea of the initiatives you can use to induce virality, provided that you create reviews that are contagious.
That’s right. Here are a few examples of these emotions in action and how they can be used in the context of reviews and recommendations.
These could be reviews where customers are angry with a third party for mishandling their account. It can also be a negative review from an unhappy customer – one who wrote a negative review, then updated their review to five stars.
Here’s an example:
This review really stands out.
This customer lost their pet, a beloved member of their family. Their vet dropped the ball. This local business dropped the ball. Yet they’ve managed to earn a recommendation from this customer.
By putting the customer and their relationship with them first.
Disgust in the context of a review outlines how you solved a disgusting problem, experience or concern for your customers. You’re looking for instances where customers came to you with an unpleasant issue. It goes without saying that your business shouldn’t be the cause of your customer’s disgust.
Here’s an example:
Straightforward and simple.
Disgust is a tricky thing. It’s context specific and needs to be used with care. A review like this, in a similar industry could be used in a remarketing campaign to attract more reviews from satisfied customers.
Reviews where customers lead with fears, objections, risk or loss then show how you’ve helped them to recover. “I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to help me… They fixed every one of my problems for less money and in less time.”
Here’s an example:
Reviews where customers share legendary customer service stories. These are stories where you’ve gone above and beyond for your customers.”
Here’s an example:
Couples want their weddings to be picture perfect.
It can be incredibly difficult to exceed your customer’s expectations. Your customers know it too, which is why so many of them are skeptical.
Uplifting, inspirational or praiseworthy content that’s designed to encourage or motivate others. In the context of reviews, this could be a heartfelt review from a happy customer or a legendary customer service story.
Here’s an example:
This business owner’s newfound purpose strikes a chord with their customers.
Emotional reviews, if they’re not your cup of tea, are easy to overlook – a serious mistake. These emotional reviews act as brain germs, transferring enthusiasm and admiration from one customer to another.
Here’s an example:
These are reviews that convey specific details or information of interest to your customer. It’s heavily dependent on context and it’s shaped by outside factors like your industry, demographics, psychographics and more.
Here’s an example:
In this example, this customer has pointed out a few things.
1. The name of an all-star employee or proprietor (Hope)
2. The relationship and rapport built with customers (what to expect)
3. Pictures of the establishment (intangible presentation cues, e.g., cleanliness, decor, style, class, budget, etc.)
Reviews demonstrating an instance where you’ve done something surprising, unexpected or novel – from your customer’s standpoint.
Here’s an example:
See the initial skepticism and the pleasant surprise afterward?
What about the comments?
As of today, there are 140 likes and 10 comments. Each of these comments from engaged customers shows up in their friend’s feed as well, spreading the word automatically.
This content provides prospective customers with practical information to help them with their decision. This information is broad and can include service or product info, social proof, instructions and answers to frequently asked questions.
Here’s an example:
A few things jump out immediately.
1. This customer is overjoyed.
2. The results she received were life-changing
3. These results helped her to adjust/sleep after giving birth
4. This local business taught the customer how to maintain these extraordinary results
5. This business went above and beyond for their customer
We’ve seen the impact these emotions can have on customers. How does this help you to optimize your Facebook Recommendations?
These emotions enable you to engineer Facebook recommendations ahead of time, in a way that induces and maximizes virality.
I’m not at all suggesting that you coach your customers or tell them what to write in the review. Not only is that unethical it’s actually far more likely to backfire.
Okay, how do you engineer reviews?
Here’s the reality of your situation. The vast majority of your customers, 70% will write a review if asked. The problem? Most don’t know what to say. This means they’re far more likely to write a terrible review. You can decrease your odds of disaster by relying on questions.
Here’s an optimization framework you can follow.
Step #1: Provide customers with 10x value
What does it mean to provide your customers with 10x value?
Go over the top.
Your customers paid you for X? You deliver X, Y and Z. Customers pay for a car wash at your local business? Give them a voucher for 80% off their next visit or a free bonus upgrade (i.e., undercarriage wash). First-timers at your restaurant? Provide your new patrons with free desert or complimentary drinks and a voucher for a free meal.
Find a way to give what your competitors can’t or won’t.
Here’s the thing about this – it doesn’t have to be expensive. Contrary to popular belief, you can provide this kind of value cheaply.
If there’s a will, there’s a way.
Find a way to give what other competitors in your industry can’t or won’t.
This creates uniqueness
Uniqueness creates long term loyalty, motivating customers to pay what you ask and stay with you.
What’s the goal with all of this?
To give customers something to rave about. Something legendary that attracts attention from other customers in your market who are getting less than they deserve from your competitors.
Your goals should be twofold:
1. Raise the performance bar increasing the value and outstanding service you provide to customers.
2. Stay on the hunt for opportunities to deliver 10x value to your customers.
This should be routine.
Do this consistently and step two is easy and straightforward.
Step #2: Identify your ideal reviewers
Your ideal reviewers are customers who meet at least one (but preferably all three) of the following criteria:
1. Admiration: They have a moderate to strong love or admiration for your business (think Apple followers).
2. Engagement: These customers are talkative. They’ll tell you what they think – positive or negative. These customers like, share, comment and subscribe to your content. They may compliment you consistently or complain to you regularly.
3. Relationship: You’ve developed a growing relationship with these customers. There’s rapport, trust, expectation and commitment, all of things you need to build a strong relationship.
Make a list of the customers that meet at least one of these criteria. Next, you’ll want to…
Step #3: Reach out to your ideal reviewers
It’s time to make your request! If you’ve done the work you’re ready to reach out to these customers via email, SMS or phone to request your interview.
Not sure what to say?
Here’s a general template you can customize quickly with specific details for your business. If you’re a long-time reader of the Grade.us blog you’ll recognize this template.
Hi [Customer Name],
I’m reaching out to our top 3% of customers (you’re one of them 🙂).
Would you be willing to answer 6 questions about our product or service? Should only take 4 or 5 min.
Would it be alright if we talked on the phone? I’m free tomorrow at noon.
Looking for more ideas and templates you can use? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a long list of templates you can customize.
Step #4: Ask customers the right questions
You’ll want to focus on listening and engaging with customers. Their time is valuable and you’re on the clock.
Meaning what exactly?
Once customers agree to the call, get their permission to record it. Transcribe the call, then email it to them along with a link to the review site you’d like them to post it to.
Here’s the (short) list of questions.
1. What would have prevented you from buying?
2. What did you find as a result of buying this?
3. What did you like most about our product (or service)?
4. What would be three other benefits to this product (or service)?
5. Would you recommend this to someone else? Why?
These questions give customers a clear track to follow. When customers answer these questions, they can’t help but share a believable, credible review that defuses objections.
Can you see what’s happening?
These questions give customers a clear track to follow. When customers answer these questions they can’t help but share a believable, credible review that defuses objections.
Step #5: Ask customers to review your business
Send customers a copy of the transcribed call.
Ask them to copy and paste their feedback into the review site you’ve directed them to via your review funnel and viola! You have a review. Need to handle a large volume of calls? Send customers to a dedicated voicemail inbox, and ask them to share their thoughts. Follow the same steps as before. If you’re directing customers to Facebook, make sure they know how to recommend your business.
Create check-in incentives for customers. This could be as simple as bragging rights (i.e., I’m working out at the gym), a straightforward incentive (Wi-Fi password), discounts, bonuses or freebies.
Facebook occasionally sends a reminder out to users to write a recommendation for your business. If you’re looking for a simple, no-hassle way to request reviews, check-in incentives may be just what you need.
One last thing.
It may be a good idea to ask customers to make their recommendation public. Facebook explains why:
“Keep in mind that when someone recommends a business, they can select an audience to share it with. For example, if they post a Recommendation and select Friends as the audience, only their friends can see their Recommendation. Only Recommendations that are shared publicly are included in a Page’s overall rating.”
What if customers prefer not to make their review public?
Thank your customers for their thoughtful review and move on. Their review will continue to influence others in their social sphere. If it’s damaging, it’s limited in the amount of damage it can do to your business. Either way, you win!
Okay, you have the review, now what?
Responding to recommendations on Facebook
You’ll need to determine who you’re responding to. According to J.M. Rensink, researcher at the University of Twente, there are seven motivations behind positive and negative word-of-mouth.
1. Vengeance. Your customer has had a bad experience and they’re out for revenge.
2. Reducing anger and anxiety. Customers are attempting to self soothe. They’re looking to vent in an effort to relieve or reduce the negative emotion they feel which is due to a negative experience.
3. Seeking advice to fix problems. Customers have a problem but they don’t trust that you can or will to fix it. These customers decide instead to reach out to prospective buyers for advice, which is a disaster.
4. Reducing cognitive dissonance. These new customers are also attempting to self soothe. They’ve just signed up with you but they’re having doubts. A positive review is their attempt to reassure themselves that they’ve made the right decision.
5. Helping your company. These customers feel a strong pull towards reciprocity (I have to repay my debt) or likeability (I like you and want to help). They have a desire to help your company in some way.
6. Altruism. Customers are looking out for prospective buyers. They’re focused on sharing their experience whether it’s positive or negative.
7. Message intrigue. These reviews are mostly discussions triggered by online activity – ads, commercials or public relations flare-ups.
You’ll need a set of responses that are specially tailored to each of these.
But when do you use these templates?
This is crucial.
Get it wrong and you can induce virality in the wrong direction.
This means you’ll need to use the right review template, on the right reviewers, at the right time.
Here’s an easy framework you can use.
If you’re not sure how to respond to a specific remark from customers, keep this simple axiom in mind.
Always take the high road.
Be timely, cite your sources (or provide evidence), be transparent and strike the right (kind) tone. There’s a very good chance your customer’s friends and family can see the conversation taking place. Be kind, be helpful or be gone.
Promoting your Facebook recommendations
It’s time to promote your Facebook recommendations, where do you start? Earlier in this post I mentioned the importance of cold, warm and hot traffic, remember?
Here’s a quick recap.
“The majority of sellers on Facebook are inexperienced and subject to Facebook’s inexperience tax. They treat lead gen as a direct response affair when it’s actually more similar to a CPM model. Customers on Facebook need to be wooed. The direct approach is typically not the most effective approach.”
How do you promote your Facebook recommendations?
It’s a concept popularized (with slight differences) by Perry Marshall, Wordtracker and Digital Marketer.
Here’s how it works.
I’ve mentioned this before but here’s where this diverges a bit.
You’re going to need two Facebook ad campaigns.
1. One for prospects who aren’t customers yet, but they want to see a strong review portfolio.
2. One for existing customers who are primed and ready for you to request a review.
Campaign #1 shares screenshots and ads with prospects who are in the warm and hot stages of your marketing funnel. Campaign #2 is designed to woo new customers into your review funnel, to leave helpful feedback, a recommendation for or against, on your Facebook page.
Campaign #1 makes sense from a top of funnel standpoint. How does Campaign #2 work?
Your Facebook recommendations (reviews) are multi-purpose tools that boost conversions throughout your funnel.
This is just the start.
But is this allowed?
Rules and regulations regarding Facebook recommendations?
Aside from reporting Facebook recommendations for inappropriate content, there’s not much in the way of rules or regulations. Facebook shares a list of do’s and don’ts on their policies pages, but it’s not particularly clear what Facebook finds acceptable or unacceptable when it comes to Facebook recommendations.
What does this mean?
You’ll want to ensure you’re fully compliant with their Terms of Service, Policies and Community Standards. Follow the rules you have to the best of your ability. If it seems unethical or questionable, don’t do it.
Tracking your goals and objectives on Facebook
Your Facebook point-of-contact
Facebook offers a variety of educational and support resources for small businesses running Facebook ads. These resources are largely self-service with one notable exception.
Facebook explains on their blog post.
“Facebook now have access to one-on-one support through live online chat. By clicking “Get Help” on the Facebook for Business website, advertisers can chat and screen share with a trained Ads Specialist to get quick answers to their Facebook advertising questions.”
If you’re spending a significant amount of money on Facebook ads you may receive a dedicated account representative who can answer your concerns personally.
I wouldn’t hold your breath though.
Here’s how Facebook determines who receives one-on-one help or not.
“Campaign Account Representatives and Account Managers at Facebook are assigned proactively. Currently, there is no process for advertisers to request a personal Account Manager. If it’s determined your account would benefit from additional account management resources, we will reach out to you directly.”
Reading between the lines?
It’s a pay to play environment. Spend the right amount of money and you’ll earn Facebook’s attention.
Facebook virality can be engineered
Most brands use Facebook recommendations accidentally – their customers take the initiative, posting recommendations on their own. For most, it’s a consumer-driven phenomenon.
The results are sporadic and messy.
It doesn’t have to be that way for you. With the right approach, your positive recommendations can be brand-driven. With the right tactics you can boost the traffic, leads and sales flowing to your business.
But only if you work with Facebook’s platform.
Each of your customers are a node in a network. This gives you instant access to almost a billion people, customers who are reliant on Facebook for person-to-person reviews and recommendations.
Can your reviews be viral?
You can with the right framework. You can attract the kind of attention and conversions your local business needs to grow exponentially, one recommendation at a time.