Tag: Consumers

At the end of last year CFSI hosted an in-the-field activity designed to put participants in the shoes of underserved consumers as they attempt to complete several financial transactions. This particular FinX event shared the focus area of the Financial Solutions Lab first innovation challenge which will be launching next month, household cash flow management.

One of the day’s participants, Paul Breloff, Managing Director at the Accion Venture Lab, shared his FinX reflections with his team, and ultimately, CFSI. (Ariel Schwartz, Senior Editor at Co.Exist, also wrote about this experience in her piece “What It’s Like to Live Without A Bank Account For a Day.”) In short, Paul’s comments were powerful and confirmation that FinX is a positive learning experience for participants. He highlighted just a few of the many challenge areas that are ripe for technology solutions. Below are Paul’s notes…

On November 18, 2014 a group of about 25-30 financial service folks (a handful each of bankers, startup executives, investors, tech company reps, journalists, and nonprofit leaders) gathered in the Mission to put ourselves in the shoes of underbanked customers in the U.S. Part scavenger hunt, part ethnography, FinX was a great chance to see the bewildering array of frustrating financial options available to underbanked customers in the US who are short on liquidity, short on time, and short on attention. Here’s the limited description I got before showing up: “This experience is not your traditional workshop or walking tour of a local neighborhood. It’s an actual step into the shoes of consumers making real-time decisions about fees, expediency, time, and convenience. The 2-hour in-the-field challenge is a rare opportunity for executives of financial institutions, FinTech innovators, and nonprofit leaders to go beyond simply hearing about the challenges that consumers face, and experience the real-life constraints and options they have. With your team, you will attempt to complete financial transactions such as cashing a check, acquiring and using a prepaid card, or seeking out a small loan.”

Once we arrived, we were split into about nine teams of three, and were given a packet of materials describing our situation. We were to pretend we were on a two hour break between shifts and had to get done a variety of things before our 12:00 p.m. shift started again. We were to assume we didn’t have a bank account, and had to cash a check, get a money order, pay rent and electricity, load a prepaid card, purchase a gift for our niece, and grab a snack—this was, after all, our hypothetical lunch hour. We also had to figure out the best rate we could get on a $500 loan from anywhere we wanted, and we had to haggle with a pawn shop owner about the value of my watch (we ultimately settled that it was worth $30, which I was quite pleased with).

I was on a team with Ariel Schwartz, Senior Editor at Co.Exist/Fast Company and Ethan Bloch, CEO of a fintech startup called Digit. We got off to what we thought was a fast start, finding a pawn shop and quickly negotiating a $30 value on my watch – which I was pleased with, given the fact that it was 15 years old and not worth much to begin with. We were also in high spirits when we located a shop called Ria (a chain across the U.S.) to cash our check. It seemed like it would be quick and easy and we could get everything done at once with only a $0.99 check cashing fee – our customer service representative, safely hidden behind a plexiglass wall, encouraged us politely that this would only take a couple minutes. But alas, they couldn’t get ahold of the payer of the check to verify by phone, and AML/CFT checks on me got tripped up. (Apparently they couldn’t figure out why I lived in DC but was cashing a check in San Francisco.) We lost 40 minutes hanging around being told it would only be “three more minutes.” We were all a bit (politely) pissed off. So that didn’t work.

Next we went to an Ace Cash Express. We waited in line about twenty-five minutes (precious lunch hour minutes ticking away), but once it was our turn, we were thrilled to learn we could indeed getmost of our tasks done, but at a cost: $6 to get the $90 check cashed, a one-time membership fee with Ace, and other fees to get money onto a prepaid. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pay our rent check because their system “couldn’t find the payee.” They said this “happens all the time” and that we should “come back later.” A not-so-fantastic option if you’re working two shifts a day and still want to eat, sleep, and see your family.

Next we had to send money to a family member, so we had to find a Western Union. Thank god for our smartphones and Google maps. We were able to do it, but again, were shocked by the cost: a flat-fee of $5 to send $30 to our friend in the US, who was going to pick it up later that day. That’s the going flat rate for a domestic remittance under $50: the equivalent of nearly 17 percent! This in an era where most of us can send value via PayPal or SquareCash or Venmo for no or little cost – IF you have a bank account which can be linked for ACH transfers. Unfortunately, our family member was told when she went to pick up the money that “the systems were down” and that she should “try coming back in two hours.” Simply ridiculous; I’m really rooting for these startups to motivate some improvements in pricing and service.

On the hustle back to our 12:00 p.m. shift we had to pick up a gift for our niece. We chose a beautiful yellow hula hoop and Brazil soccer ball from the dollar store, where, thank goodness, they accepted our MasterCard prepaid card. We were running short on time so only had time to grab a coconut water and banana on the trek back to our second shift.

None of this was rigged; these were all real stores, processing real transactions with real checks and GPR prepaid cards, treating us like real customers. And it was a great experience. It made me think quite differently about the tradeoffs between fees, convenience, and dignity. As the clock was ticking, considerations of cost, quite frankly, went out the door as we desperately tried to just get things done and not show up late for our shift. In some ways, perhaps, “done is better than cheap.” Also, it was just amazing to confront the bewildering array of choices. Walking down Mission Street, there are quite literally dozens of check-cashing spots, pawn shops, big signs promising fast cash, each with its own confusing set of matrices outlining prices based on a ton of variables. Who has time for that, who really cares at some point?

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Crowdsourcing is reshaping the way we think about the marketplace. Why? Because it simulates an open market environment very well. It allows providers to swarm into a market space and sell products and services to consumers, tailoring what they offer to consumer preferences. The swarm of consumers and providers grows, and affordability and quality improve as competition increases. All it takes is a well-designed technology platform which provides the necessary tools for products and services to be traded with reliable and sufficient information.

Peer-to-peer (p2p) solutions, enabled by web 2.0 and mobile technologies, are applying the crowdsourcing paradigm and setting the stage for a more efficient method for customer acquisition, service delivery and sourcing of funds. Some see crowdsourcing as a process of ‘disintermediation’, which is limiting reliance on sales agents, middlemen, brokers etc. and reducing transaction costs.

In the consumer lending sphere, ‘crowdfunding’ has emerged and has brought a fresh perspective on how we think about addressing some persistent issues of accessibility and affordability of financial services.

Two Bay Area based companies – Lending Club and Prosper – are the early birds. Both companies are offering crowdfunding services to borrowers and lenders, through which any individual or institution can lend to or borrow from each other, based on the borrower’s pre-assigned credit-risk rating and the lender’s preferences and risk tolerance. The uptake for the service has been strong – the two companies have reported that in 2011, monthly loan originations doubled to $30 million and tripled to $11 million through Lending Club and Prosper respectively. 24,000 new customers signed up on Lending Club and the platform originated a quarter billion dollars worth of new loans in 2011, more than doubling the previous four years combined. These loans were priced with net annualized interest rates ranging between 5.82% and 12.15%.

It is important to note that these two companies are not focusing on providing services which cater directly to the needs of underbanked consumers, who typically borrow in small amounts and have limited or no credit histories. Lending Club originates loans with an average size of $10,945 and rejects 90% of the loan applications it receives. The reason underbanked consumers are not a priority for these two companies is because of regulatory bottlenecks. The Securities and Exchange Commission regulates p2p loans like securities, with pricing based on assigned risk categories using borrower credit reports. This automatically creates a selection bias for consumers with established credit histories and eliminates most underbanked consumers from the pool of potential borrowers.

Structuring p2p lending platforms like auction markets, which allow market players to transact freely based on their preferences and risk tolerance, will help open-up the p2p lending market to underbanked consumers. As a first step, a regulatory framework for a true auction based loan products market needs to be developed and introduced.

Crowdfunding is a frontier market space, which has immense potential to be scaled to improve the availability of high-quality, low-cost credit options for underbanked consumers. Considering the high level of connectivity, visibility and traceability that p2p platforms offer, p2p lending could prove to be a promising solution, particularly for consumers with weak credit histories and limited access to affordable loans.

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Customer service has been a large part of a bank’s strategy to build trust among consumers. Despite the bad press banks have been receiving, their ability to provide high level customer service at branches has been an integral part of their relationship building strategy. As a customer, I’m always suspiciously pleased by the exceptional friendliness of the tellers and their interest to make small talk while completing transactions. This strategy has been an effective way for banks to get consumers to trust them, and I often find myself leaving branches feeling somewhat more popular than I was before the transaction.

However, over the past few years, two things have been happening that have increased the need for banks to promote trust outside of their customer service strategy. Firstly, with the increase in ATM capabilities, and technological improvements with online and mobile banking, fewer customers want to make that trip to the branch to complete their daily interactions. This means that fewer customers are benefiting from the highly trained branch personnel and bonding with their bank on a weekly basis.

Secondly, and more importantly, to say consumer sentiment of banks has soured over the past few years is a huge understatement. While the blame for the financial crisis will always be thrown around among banks, regulators, and consumers, one fact is clear: customers have lost trust in financial institutions. A study earlier this year by PEW confirmed this sentiment by finding that 47% of American’s don’t trust banks, and this is a serious problem considering banks are often asking customers to trust them with their life’s savings and financial decisions.

In the wake of the financial crisis, banks and financial providers have some big hurdles to conquer if they want to continue to grow their customer base and keep them happy. They need to build consumer trust again and convince people they are on their side. And having friendly branch staff might not be enough to cut it anymore.

To build trust successfully, providers need to go beyond the frontline staff and think about providing products that build consumers trust. As the Compass Principles recommend, products and services should be designed to help consumers clearly understand and derive value from their financial products and services. The marketplace today is flooded by products that aim to take advantage of consumers by charging fees or setting consumers up for failure. By providing transparent and reliable products that consumers can depend on, financial providers have an opportunity to differentiate themselves among competitors and build consumer confidence and trust for long-term relationships.

There are some great examples of providers who have integrated a sense of trust into their products. Cardtronics, one of the largest ATM providers, aims to provide relevant support to customers before, during, and after every transaction by offering transactional advice in locating an ATM and suggesting ways to reduce fees. ZestCash, an online lender, differentiates itself from other small dollar short-term lenders by allowing customers the ability to design their own repayment plans and rewarding positive repayment through cheaper loans. NetSpend, a successful provider of reloadable prepaid cards, clearly outlines its fees on its website and promotes savings by offering competitive interest rates. These kinds of product designs help signal to consumers that providers are looking out for their best interest and providing a product that meets their needs without penalizing them inappropriately.

These are only a few of many providers in the marketplace today finding new and innovative ways to build trust among customers. I encourage readers to share their own experiences and best practices for how providers can continue to design products that customers can trust.

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There is growing evidence that consumers who have a need for credit are turning to overdraft because they lack better options. A recent Wall Street Journal investigation of fee income at banks inside retail stores, for example, quoted a customer saying she overdraws “all the time” because the overdraft fee is cheaper than a payday loan.

The fact that some people are forced to choose between overdraft and high-cost payday loans when they experience a shortfall is a clear sign that something is missing in the marketplace. But rather than spending time debating which option is worse for consumers or focusing solely on reining in overdraft, we ought to shift our energies to creating new credit products that meet consumers’ needs transparently and affordably.

Innovating in small-dollar credit is challenging, given the myriad state rules, lack of clear federal guidelines and inherent riskiness of lending to people without a credit history or with damaged credit. Some forward-looking lenders, however, are experimenting with new ways to meet these consumers’ needs, often drawing on technology to minimize risk, reduce the cost of delivery and improve the customer experience.

To support and encourage such experimentation, CFSI recently launched a Small-Dollar Credit Test and Learn Working Group, which convenes five companies that are piloting new credit products or product features that align with many of the quality guidelines in CFSI’s Compass Guide to Small-Dollar Credit. CFSI, with the support of the MetLife Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Omidyar Network, will partner with working group participants to track their pilots’ outcomes and to share valuable lessons with the rest of the industry. Here’s a snapshot of what the companies are testing:

Regions Bank is piloting changes to its existing savings-secured installment loan that enables customers to borrow with as little as $250 in savings. Since reducing its minimum savings requirement from $2,000 to $250 early this year, Regions has seen demand for the installment loan increase dramatically. Regions aims to better understand what customer need (or needs) this product is meeting and what lessons it has to offer for future high-quality, small-dollar credit product design.

Kinecta Federal Credit Union is piloting a payday consolidation loan that will enable customers to convert multiple outstanding payday loans into a single installment loan. LexisNexis Risk Solutions will partner with Kinecta to provide underwriting data for the loans. Kinecta is testing whether the ability to consolidate multiple payday loans and pay them off over time with affordable monthly payments helps its members to break the cycle of debt.

Emerge Financial Wellness is experimenting with ways to increase take-up and usage of an optional “Save as You Repay” feature, which enables borrowers of its workplace-based installment loan product to contribute additional funds to a savings account each time they make a payment. Emerge aims to identify the most effective ways to help its customers build a cushion against shortfalls, thereby reducing their need for credit in the future.

Enova International is piloting a new feature that enables customers of its online NetCredit Gold product to customize their loan terms and monthly payment amounts. Enova International seeks to gauge whether borrowers will be more successful repaying their loans if they’re able to choose the payment amount that fits their budgets.

We expect that each of these pilots will contribute valuable lessons about what works in small-dollar lending. We hope some will succeed and will be replicated by others in the marketplace.

But innovation also requires the willingness to fail and to learn from that failure. The only way we can understand how to align borrower and lender success in small-dollar lending is by testing and learning, over and over again. We must embrace the philosophy of lean innovation—rapid-testing and customer feedback—if we ever hope to make progress on filling the gap in the market for high-quality small-dollar credit.

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It is not easy to live in this life diffrent from many people. Especially if it about tradition, including how you spent your money on holiday. With the holiday shopping season well underway, the spirit of giving to family, friends and just causes comes with a high cost.

According to creditcards.com, the total U.S. consumer debt stands at $2.43 trillion for 2019, and falling into debt during the holidays is a reality for many. In fact, the National Retail Federation found that Americans spent $52 billion on Black Friday shopping this year.

Beware of the phony debt collector…

Courtesy : thejobshop.files.wordpress.com

These days, falling behind on some bills is the new normal since so many people are juggling unemployment checks or part time salaries. But that opens the door for fake collectors to scam people out of credit card numbers and bank account information. According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector cannot threaten arrest, call you after 9 p.m., at your place of work or contact others regarding your debt. If so, that person may very well be a scam artist.

Don’t be ‘naughty’ with your credit cards…

Courtesy : g.foolcdn.com

Credit cards can be useful tools for consumers, but you have to be careful not to abuse them during the holiday season. They can spell a quick slide into unmanageable debt if misused. Creditcards.com reported that the average credit card debt per household was $15,799 and the average annual percentage rate on credit card with a balance on it was 13.10 percent, as of May 2019

Have no fear; help is on the way…

Courtesy : i.pinimg.com

Not paying off debt can have other consequences besides having to dole out extra cash due to a high interest rate. A lowered credit score can affect your ability to snag a great deal on your next car, appliance, home or other purchases – or may prevent you from obtaining future credit altogether. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 70% of consumers surveyed say they have noticed new credit card disclosures on their bills. But fewer than one-third say this caused them to make bigger payments or stop charging up their cards.

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With the increasing number of identity theft cases every year, let’s take a look at the most commonly abused consumer information and the latest reports about the crime of identity theft.

The latest fraud reports from the Javelin Strategy & Research Report

When The Javelin Strategy & Research conducted their report on identity theft, they found that the amount stolen and number of victims increased in 2012: from 11.6 million victims in 2011to 12.6 million in 2012; and from $18 billion in fraud losses in 2011 to $20.9 billion in 2012.

Another interesting finding of the report is that one in four consumers, who received breach notification from companies they did business with, have actually become victims of identity theft. Breach notification is one way for companies to alert consumers when their business has been compromised by identity theft, so consumers know what to do to protect their identities. It’s important to take breach notifications seriously, according to the Javelin Strategy & Research, because people who receive these warnings are more likely to become victims of fraud. When businesses offer free credit monitoring services to consumers affected by data breaches, it’s wise to take advantage of the offer; it allows consumers to closely monitor their accounts and prevent id theft.

On the positive note, the report has found that the average number of days consumer information of victims is fraudulently misused by thieves has dropped to around 48 days in 2012 from 55 days in 2011. This means that victims are now proactively protecting their accounts against fraud using credit monitoring, financial alerts and identity protection services. This collaboration positively impacts identity theft prevention, thereby, decreasing the number of days of fraudsters can misuse their victim’s personally identifying information. Victims can report if there are errors in their credit reports such as delinquent entries or su[censored] ious charges in their active accounts and this timely reporting decreases the damages and the costs of identity theft.

It’s necessary to be proactive at all times when it comes to your identity’s security, because thieves can easily gain access to your information and use it to commit fraud. Report problems immediately before they worsen and become out of control; this way, you are preventing losses and becoming more knowledgeable in terms of identity protection.

Identity theft trends: What’s the most misused victim information?

The Federal Trade Commission began do[censored] enting cases of and complaints about identity theft in2000, and they found that the most commonly misused information up until 2008 was credit card fraud followed in 2010 by benefits/government do[censored] ents fraud.

• Government do[censored] ents/benefits fraud – In this category, identity thieves use the identifying information of consumers to create counterfeit or fake do[censored] ents, including licenses, Social Security cards and birth certificates. They use these do[censored] ents to apply for benefits in the victim’s name. The effects of this fraud are seen when victims apply for benefits themselves and are denied because someone has already used their identity to make a benefits claim. This type of fraud can also impact the security of a nation, especially when the creation of false do[censored] ents is used by immigrants to enter a country illegally, where they can operate or support other criminal activities, such as credit card fraud and bank fraud.

• Credit card fraud–In this type of fraud, the main target of thieves are the credit cards of their victims. Whether they steal the cards from the victim’s wallet or use sophisticated techniques – like skimming or phishing – to obtain the victim’s credit card information, their main purpose is to am[censored] credit card charges illegally. To cover their tracks, thieves can also change the victim’s mailing address to make sure that victim will not see the fraudulent charges for some time, giving thieves more time to perpetrate their crimes. This, in turn, can devastate the victim’s credit standing and personal life.

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Yahoo! announced its plans of freeing up inactive IDs provided that they have been dormant for the past 12 months. This is known as the Yahoo! Wish List, and the freed IDs will give a way for other users to choose a more useful name or switch to the username they’ve always wanted, which, of course, was already in use when they first signed up. This means that inactive Yahoo! users can lose their accounts if they have not logged-in for the past year.

Getting a new user ID is one way to entice consumers into using their Yahoo! accounts again, but does this mean that identity thieves can claim inactive IDs and possibly gain access to consumers’ sensitive information both online and offline? Keep in mind that online identity theft can happen to anyone and thieves will do everything to get whatever handy information they can from consumers – in any way they can.

What should you know about Yahoo! Wish List?

First, those who want to parti[censored] te in getting a Yahoo! Email can to go to www.wishlist.yahoo.com where they may enter up to five usernames. When done, just add a Yahoo! email, claim the new user ID, and click on submit button. An automated message will then tell them where they are in line for the new username which can be claimed in mid-August 2013. Yahoo! will email a link where they can activate the new user ID.

The form that is filled out can be completed as many times as they want, and it’s not clear whether or not the most recent submission will overwrite previous ones. If not, then it’s easier for potential new users and even identity thieves to get as many user IDs as they want.

Second, if you do not want to lose your inactive Yahoo! account despite its dormant status, all you have to do is to log-in and it will be removed from the company’s list of inactive IDs.

The question remains is there a threat for you to become a victim of stolen identity if you wish to release your old user ID once and for all? What if it falls into the wrong hands and can be used by them to steal your identity?

Privacy concerns and threats of identity theft

With the Yahoo! Wish List up and active, is it possible for thieves to abuse an old Yahoo! account? Inactive accounts can still contain valuable information about its former user: some even tie it to their email address or to subscribe to mailing lists or other online services, where thieves can gain more information about the old user’s identity. Others even use them for their other online accounts to send verification or password resets or even a back up to their primary email address. Therefore, it’s may become a problem for the original user when everything is connected to their old Yahoo! account.

This privacy concern has already been addressed by Yahoo! which claims that all contents in the old user account will be totally deleted and all subscriptions and mailings will be removed, as well. Simply put, Yahoo! claims that all personal information will be erased from the inactive user ID and all that new users will get is the vacant username. Yahoo! also said that there should be no fear of getting victimized by hackers and identity theft, and they are going great lengths to prevent identity theft from happening. Still, it’s safe to assume that your personal identity may be at risk in this move, so consumers should be very aware of the possible consequences.

Tips to prevent id theft and protect your privacy

Sign-in to your old Yahoo! – The best way to avoid your dormant account from being available to other people is to check in and make it active again. This will remove you from the company’s list of inactive accounts automatically.

Delete anything related to your old account – Once you have signed back in and you have no plans of using your account, just remove any old subscriptions you have. If you have used Yahoo! as your email in your other online accounts, change it to your primary email instead. Empty your message box, as well. Though Yahoo! claims it will delete every personal detail in an inactive account before a new user can use it, it’s much better to do this yourself to be on the safe side.

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Banking, once taken as a tiresome task by a lot of users, has had more than a few ground-breaking changes in last few years. One of the most celebrated changes has been the capability of banking consumers to check account details online rather than holding back in long lines or looking on hold for info from a telephone customer service. Online banks keep on to broaden the range of services offered to consumers and to attract some of them by making available user-friendly facilities to get to banking information any time and in shot time.

One of the most excellent aspects of online banking is that now consumer does not need to get info about bank statements and transaction informations. By using facilities offered by the banks, users can easily check account details using a net-banking or smartphone app from any location. With a small number of steps, account balances and further information, for example interest rates or Annual Yields, show on the computer screen and can be printed out easily if required. Since account informations usually available within a short time, remain up-to-date, and the possibility of accounting errors is very much reduced. In addition, users have more than one accounts at the same online bank have the capability send money online between their accounts with not any need to prepare printed cheque.

A lot of banks offer facilities for example viable interest rates on PLS accounts, free availability of online account informations and free online payment of bills, to enhance capacity of account holders for coming into being. The quality added services carry on to create more possibilities for online banking to offer ground-breaking services to users. Majority of banks make available online loan applications to fill out for a variety of loans with loan calculators and the loan is credited to your account after a few online application submission. However, banks may also call you to visit for further informations. Other than the loan services offered by banks, PLS and saving accounts for example Certificates of Deposits (CDs) are generally offered at a more interest rate than usual banking institutes. By browsing the Internet to evaluate the services of a variety of banks, you can make a decision about which institution can suit your banking requirements easily and fast.

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As marketers, there are a few seemingly basic questions that are at the core of our entire marketing strategies.

Who is our customer? How does our customer think and make decisions?

We research the demographic data, whitepapers about trends, Google Analytics, and any other data source we can think of. But many times we fail to look at our own consumer behavior – as well as that of our families, our friends, and our colleagues – to determine trends, when in fact our own behavior is probably a good indication of “the norm”.

So after thinking about my own brand-seeking habits, I realized that I either get a direct recommendation from a friend or colleague, or I consume other people’s online reviews related to the brand.

1. I find restaurants on Yelp, and sort my results by “highest rated.”

2. I run a Google search on every product, model number, and service to see their reviews.

3. I listen intently to my fellow entrepreneurs and their experiences with certain tools.

4. I listen to new artists and songs that my friends tell me about.

5. I legitimize brands by their website’s display of significant press coverage

Brand Trust Low, People Trust High

According to a 2015 Nielsen report, a majority of worldwide consumers behave in a similar fashion. In fact, the report states that 92% of worldwide consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trust consumer opinions posted online.

A 2012 Accenture survey had similar findings – 79% of consumers received their brand information via Word-of-Mouth, while 63% uses review & news sites. The survey even shows that 47% of consumers used social media and online forums to discover brand information.

 

Clearly, people trust the experiences and comments of other people over any direct brand advertising. These types of people experiences end up in some sort of free, customer-driven impressions called “Earned Media.”

What Is Earned Media?

According to Michael Brito of Edelman, Earned Media is…

“…the natural result of public/media relation’s efforts, ad campaigns, events and the content that you create within your owned media channels. …[It] has expanded to influencers who have popular blogs as well. When someone not associated with your brand mentions you on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media channel, it’s earned media. Other types of earned media include consumers’ social media posts, tweets, product reviews, videos, photos, and open dialogue within online communities.”

With that definition, it is clear that in order to “earn media,” a company must encourage and enable its customers and online communities to advocate for its brand in every way possible. When encouraged and enabled, customers can very easily act on their positive brand experience and create activity on social media (impressions, shares, comments), online communities (reviews & recommendations, forums, “upvotes”), and email (referrals).

Making Customers Into Evangelists

Gather Their Feedback.

There’s nothing like getting the word straight from your customers. The more you solicit their opinions, the more emotionally invested they will feel about your product. Regularly run short-but-effective surveys, using tools like SurveyMonkey, Wufoo, or Formstack. Install feedback boxes on your product, such as Qualaroo Insights or GetSatisfaction, to constantly encourage your users to tell you what’s on their mind. Then display the (positive) feedback proudly on your website using a Testimonials widget.

Impress Them With Customer Service.

When a customer reaches out with an issue, the customer’s ensuing experience with the brand goes a long way to determining the future of that relationship. Brands that are responsive, helpful, and generally awesome to their customers will have a greater chance of keeping those customers for a long time (for life??). Companies like JetBlue, Nike, Seamless, and Comcast have nailed Twitter customer service, but if you can’t have dedicated manpower on your Twitter handle you can still respond to your customer service requests within 6 hours, like the big boys do!

Make It Easy For Them To Evangelize.

Take “Word-of-mouth”, make it digital, and what do you get? Virality. If your product does not prioritize virality, you are doing yourself a disservice because you are limiting customers who want to help your mission! For starters, provide your users with tools that make it simple to email contacts and post on social media. Match those tools with a simple-yet-effective incentive for spreading your brand’s message, and watch those referrals multiply!

Just Ask.

Sometimes being direct with your customers is most effective. When customers are already excited and passionate about a brand or product, they want to contribute to that brand’s success and public perception. Lucky for you, within your customer base you have social media influencers, members of the media, people who are active on review sites, heavy networkers, and click-happy referral inviters. Find them, and ask them for online reviews, press coverage, website linkbacks, Tweets, and “Likes”. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results!

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