Balance Trust With Targeting In Social Reach Marketing

Your customers don’t come to your website or your own social channels (such as your Facebook brand page) to discover whether what you offer meets a need or fulfills a desire they have. Instead, people discover you mostly through ads and word of mouth (WOM). To spread your message to a new audience, update your understanding of "reach channels" to include not only traditional tactics such as TV, search, and print but also the three key social tactics for this phase of the life cycle: influencer marketing, advocate marketing, and social advertising.

In my most recent research report, I examine how these different reach tactics are related and how you should balance trust and targeting in your social reach strategy. Specifically, there are four categories of contributors create content on your behalf:

  • Your marketing team uses social ads to target your prospects and customers precisely.
  • Employees, resellers, and partners share their experiences with your prospects.
  • Your customers relate to your prospects as peers.
  • Influencers shape the conversation about your solutions.

Each of those content creators varies on how much its messages will be trusted by your customers and how precisely you can target its messaging. The most highly trusted tactics are effective but can be difficult to use and spread. On the other hand, less trusted tactics are less persuasive, but you control their creation and audience.

As you build your social strategy, you should craft your reach strategy based on the complexity and length of your product life cycle, where more-complex product purchases require the most trust and simpler product purchases benefit most from better targeting.

I lay out these axes of trust versus targeting and the independence of the author from your brand in this figure:

Know Who Plays What Role In Reach Marketing; Example Tactics

I would love to hear your thoughts on this new framework, either in a comment below or on Twitter.


Zachary Really thoughtful


Really thoughtful framework.

I have some questions about the relative positioning of the different marketing tactics - and I'd love to know the empirical basis for this. Commissioned / paid-for blog posts seem surprisingly high as an example.

There is an added dimension which is cost/reach. This seems to correlate strongly with the increase in-trust, although there might be outliers (incentivised reviews may be more expensive that customer advocacy, for example).


Great stuff

This is great stuff--insightful, new, and actionable. I really like the distinction you draw in the full report between less considered purchases, where traditional marketing-driven targeting is most effective, and more considered purchases which are more informed by trust-based relationships. As a customer I agree with it, and as a marketer I'm fascinated by it.

Trust vs. Control

"The most highly trusted tactics are effective but can be difficult to use and spread. On the other hand, less trusted tactics are less persuasive, but you control their creation and audience."

As you know, this balance is top of mind for me and Get Satisfaction. As a platform for the middle two pillars in your model, our focus is on leveraging highly trusted voice of customers and advocates, while providing the brand some control (or at least directional stimulus) in the creation of this user-generated content. It's an interesting balance that involves a bit of nuance and a level of indirection that some brands are reluctant to adopt at first. It's an interesting problem/opportunity.

Customers Determine Your Reputation Among Their Peers

"Customers determine your reputation among their peers." This is very well said. Our own experiences and studies from Forrester and others have proven this time and time again.

The real key is finding a way to engage your biggest supporters and enable them to speak to their peers, your prospects, in a positive way. It's such a powerful tool for the reach aspect of marketing.

Thanks for a great research project.

Responses to questions

Azeem -- I have not done a formal survey testing these tactics against each other, and I intentionally used them as example tactics in a broader framework. If you want to make the argument that, for example, commissioned blog posts should be slightly lower within the Influencer box, you may be correct. But I have them slight above thought-leadership content created by a marketing team, which feels correct to me.

Michael -- thanks. There was a limit to how much complexity I could get into in this blog post, but I encourage any customers to read the full report.

Dave -- You're right; it's certainly a balancing act!

Mick -- thanks; but it's not juts your customers, but a broader mix of people which determine your reputation as well.