Within the Matrix Partners office, word of mouth is more powerful than paid advertising. We’re all lifelong pet lovers, so when a coworker asks for product recommendations, someone on the team is ready to step up with suggestions. Food for sensitive tummies, safe harnesses for pulling pups, paw boots for harsh Chicago winters – if we don’t have a solution on our client roster, we have one on our personal favorites list.

Over the last few years, a similar approach has been popping up on social media. Word of mouth – or more specifically, the testimonial – is king on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Seeing a product in use, reading about the benefits from other pet owners, getting a recommendation from a follower…it’s personalized marketing in an impersonal space.

We’ve crafted an entire tier of services around the concept of the testimonial, called the Influencer Program. It’s straight-forward and succinct: we find pet owners willing to try a client’s product and provide honest feedback via a photo or video on social media. Instagram influentials are starting to understand the scope of their follower networks, and are reaping the benefits of having quality content and a passion for pet profiles.

But why would anyone run a social media page for their dog? Why wouldn’t they? If your dog makes you happy, it’s a safe bet that he or she will make others happy as well. And if you’re anything like us, 97% of your Instagram feed is your pet anyway, so you’re halfway there. From a marketing perspective, these are the smartest pet owners on the planet – they’re doing something that they enjoy, providing smiles to the general public, and (for the purposes of this conversation) getting free products to try or even getting paid to try them.

Think about the benefits to a brand:

  • You’re building trust in a more organic way than paid ads, mailers, TV or other approaches can. It’s human nature for people to trust other people, and to be receptive to real feedback.
  • You’re not hitting people with the hard sell. Social media is a must for brands, but it’s not always the place for pushy sales messages. By working with influencers for testimonials, you’re getting your message out there softly but effectively.
  • You’re combating skepticism before it even starts. Seeing a package or an ad merely introduces the idea of your product, which can invite some “what if”s from the consumer. If the introduction to a grooming product is a demonstration of how effective and gentle it is, you’re in on the ground floor.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all testimonials are completely organic. A pure review would be from someone who purchased the product, loved it, and told the world about their great experience. We can’t bank on those, so we orchestrate reviews in some way. For the most part, this means sending a free product and letting that influencer create whatever content best reflects their experience. By definition, the cost of the product is considered compensation in this case.

There are some influencers who take this a step farther and ask for payment along with the product. These people usually have tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of followers, and can prove a high level of engagement from their audience. The wider your reach, the more a post to your account is worth. Both versions of compensated testimonials are effective, and can boost brand awareness and even sales.

Seeing a product in use or in a non-commercial setting isn’t just a luxury – more than 70% of consumers admit to researching a new product on social media (including videos on YouTube) before making a purchase decision. These influencer testimonials aren’t just telling a potential customer that you’re the right brand, they’re providing visual proof.

There are countless ways to leverage the review side of social media. Much of it depends on the brand, the budget and the influencer, but you can try everything from one-off posts or long-term feeding trials, to giveaways or paid brand ambassadors. If you can think of a way to broadcast your message to a targeted audience, you can find influencers who are willing to assist.

We dedicate a large portion of our time coordinating this type of marketing, and often times, placements are some of our highest performing posts. People listen to the opinions of their peers. Giving consumers unique insight into a product helps them envision how their pet might interact with it. Trust us when we say it doesn’t hurt to see cute pets in your Instagram feed instead of packaging or ad copy.

Think influencer marketing is the next step for your brand? Let us know at hello@matrix1.com.