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Big news for social commerce: Amazon has officially entered the influencer marketing space. Reported in TechCrunch, Amazon is beta testing its own, exclusive social influencer marketing program known as the “Amazon Influencer Program”, which enables approved influencers “of all tiers and categories” to have a vanity URL that links to curated pages of products featured in their social posts.

Amazon’s move is indicative of a larger trend integrating influencer marketing content and social commerce to create a shoppable social experience. Ratings & reviews are no longer limited to product pages – you can’t go to a brand website, social feed, or app without seeing a review, user-generated content or influencer testimonial. Yet however omni-present ratings & reviews seem – very few consumers actually create or share them. In fact, only 10% of consumers report almost or always posting ratings & reviews of products.

But by the time consumers reach the point of purchase, 90% have been influenced by one. Where consumer choice is infinite and brands no longer control the message, social proof is the currency of success. When people get overwhelmed, they tend to revert back to the things they trust, like human relationships. In the context of marketing, this gives micro-influencers a major advantage over other content generation and curation tactics. In the crunch to generate ratings & review content at scale, micro-influencers can create, amplify, and submit ratings & reviews content with credibility and authenticity.

Particularly when e-commerce giants like Amazon dictate the rules (only organic reviews allowed) – the quality and quantity of your product reviews have equal power to increase sales by orders of magnitude – or leave your brand collecting dust on the digital shelf. Here are 5 best practices to maximize your organic product ratings & reviews potential using micro-influencers.

1. Ask

Sounds basic, but as they say, you only get what you ask for. The key is to ask, don’t beg. Most brands only ask for a product rating & review via an automated email 48 hours of the product being purchased or of delivery confirmation, followed by cut-and-paste reminders of drip notifications. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong ask.

This process ignores the four factors necessary for micro-influencer motivation: autonomy, mastery, purpose, convenience. Optimize your ratings & reviews completion rates by making sure your ratings & review ask is personal, contextual, relevant, and seamless. This includes allowing for enough time to pass for micro-influencers to experience your product to its full capabilities, freedom of execution (star rating, UGC, written review), and the opportunity for your micro-influencers to be positioned as the knowledge source for their followers. In doing so, your ask for a product review quickly becomes another opportunity for them to grow their social capital.

2. Think Outside the Post-Purchase Box

How are you going to make your product review ask stand out from hundreds of other asks in your consumers’ inbox? When you start thinking about how relevant and seamless your ratings & reviews activation can be, start thinking about your customer journey. You want to engage micro-influencers where they spend their time and most vocal. The process should be easy, so your prompt feels like a natural part of their everyday engagement rather than an interruption to be ignored.

Instead, think context – what are the moments when your product is used, and what tools do you have available to capture that? Contextual activation is instrumental. Seek to captures reviews where those moments of experience and activity occur.

3. Make it Exclusive

When it comes to ratings & reviews, nothing is more important than communicating trust and authenticity. Credible, organic reviews begin with your own customers. When you start identifying and recruiting micro-influencers among your own customer base, you may find that it is an exclusive club of a few 1,000 – 10,000. Take a page from Amazon’s new playbook and make your program exclusive.

While it may seem counter-intuitive because you want everyone possible to share a product review, exclusivity creates anticipation and buzz by tapping into micro-influencers other core motivators – desire for gain and fear of loss. It creates a dynamic where micro-influencers will be intrinsically motivated to complete prompts for ratings & reviews to stay in the program, where others will create higher quality content in aspiration. So share invites, have waitlists, and get make it personal.

4. Respond & Reward

Positively reinforce micro-influencers’ completion of the review by with an immediate response  (there’s plenty to be said for immediate gratification), acknowledging that their feedback is important (whether the review is positive or negative). Reward or incentivize with early access and first-to-know information, among others:

  • Say Thank You: A little thanks goes a long way. Offering praise and feedback expresses that you noticed the time they took to share their product experience and that you’re listening.
  • Share an Exclusive: Provide useful or relevant insider information, such as the date of a new launch or sneak peek at a new design. Increase your micro-influencers’ social capital by empowering them to be the first to know.
  • Surprise & Delight: Reward an organic review by surprising micro-influencers with an unexpected reward on completion, such as a promo code, product sample, or exclusive experience.

A note on less than stellar reviews – more often than not, they add to your brand’s and product’s credibility and provide consumers points for comparison. Always express gratitude for the feedback, and steps you’re making in response.

5. Mind your FTCs

Having difficulty scaling your efforts? Consider a reward-first incentive strategy, where a reward is given in exchange for micro-influencers’ fair and honest review of your product. Per FTC guidelines, the relationship between brand and micro-influencer must be disclosed in the review, and some companies, like Amazon, do not permit incentivized reviews on its site.

Incentives include anything of value, such as money, discounts, product, or promo codes. It includes giving consumers free product with the expectation they will include or mention it in content, or bloggers who are part of a network marketing program free samples in exchange for writing about them. A disclosure is a simple statement making the brand relationship known to the audience. It can be as simple as a direct hashtag (#sponsored), one that denotes the context of the brand relationship (#ambassador), or statement disclosing that the content was incentivized in some way.

It’s also imperative to understand how the platforms you choose to work with manage FTC compliance, including disclosure copy, whether that disclosure is automatically or manually appended to incentivized content, and verification.

Put it into Practice

Ready to get started?

Learn how to put these best practices to work for your brand in our How to Activate Micro-Influencers to Generate Ratings & Reviews playbook.