Using Customer and Employee Testimonials, Especially in Government Contracting Industry

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There is a very unique business in America that doesn’t fit into the standard business model when it comes to social media marketing. For those unfamiliar with government contracting and how it works, a government contractor is a private company that produces goods or services requested by the government.  To be awarded the contract, a company must compete with others by submitting a proposal based on the government’s Request for Proposal (RFP) which specifies the work requested and timeframe the contract covers. Most of the time a contract is set for a year, with several option years if the contractor continues to do a superb job under budget. Government contracting websites and social media channels are among the least customer viewed for a reason. Current and prospective clients aren’t interested because there is no cause for them to research a company in this fashion due to the stringent award process.

The recession continues in government contracting, prompting more federal companies to explore options to service offerings in some adjacent private markets and generally the best ROI is face-to-face marketing. Most government contractors are in niche markets, so the good news is many of these contractors are considered top in their industry with subject matter experts on staff that can author rich company blog postings.

Customer, Partner Testimonials and SME interviews for Content Resources

The most coveted external sources are satisfied customer testimonials. There are many restrictions using current government customers to endorse private industry, so it’s best to place emphasis on former customers who are no longer in a restrictive position that you can use as modified case studies. .

To ensure the best use of customer/partner testimonials in building an IMC content strategy, I first researched several external communication sources that could offer advice.  These included (Kittaneh, 2014)5 Social Media Sources of Testimonials for Your Business (Links to an external site.); (Ash, 2014)Using Customer Stories to Build Trust and Increase Conversions (Links to an external site.); and (Burdett, n.d.)Defense Contractors: Pros and Cons of Social Media Platforms (Links to an external site.).

Legalities of Using Customer Testimonials in Advertising Resource

The power of referrals, endorsements and quotes from customers can really bolster a brand but it’s best to be entirely familiar with truth-in-advertising and endorsement laws as set forth by the Federal Trade Commission.  Here is a good source to ensure proper compliance:FTC’s Endorsements guide for businesses (Links to an external site.). Some of the highlights include:

    • All Endorsements Must Be Truthful and Not Misleading
    • Endorsements Must Reflect Typical Experiences
    • Disclose Any Connections or Affiliations to Your Endorser
    • User-generated reviews from other websites are the property of the person who wrote the review. There are other ways, however, to incorporate customer reviews into your website:
      • Add links or plug-ins to your website that take people directly to your page on crowdsourcing review sites like Yelp.
      • Use third-party rating and review tools, such as Shopzilla or BazaarVoice, on your site so that consumers can review products post-sale. Don’t forget to add a disclaimer notifying your customers that the review may be posted online and used for marketing purposes.
      • Many companies receive awards from various government or media sources. Even though the government cannot endorse a company in an advertisement, posting some of the content in the citation is acceptable in various social media forums.
      • Put the following on Twitter with ceremony photo: #___ receives _____ award for ________ from___________. Use the embed tweet option with complimentary tweets which  provides fully formatted piece of text to embed on company site. An embedded tweet makes for a perfectly credible testimonial as it can be traced to a real person.

Use Social Media to Promote Stockholders meeting or other key meetings

      • At annual stockholders meeting, conduct several short video interviews of board members, CEO, and or pre-approved executives that can be tweeted out, used on company Facebook page, website, etc.
      • Prior to meeting, post photos with short bios on featured speakers on Facebook and LinkedIn company pages to promote stockholder attendance at meeting. Link the post to email that will be going to all stockholders prior to meeting.
      • After annual stockholder’s meeting, post the two interview videos on company website, Youtube and company Facebook page with short description on company services and capabilities.
      • Send out Tweet with each of the Board Member’s photo with link to interview.
      • Cross promote the interviews on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+. Embed Instagram image with caption.

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Using Subject Matters Experts for robust social media video content

      • Video interview several staff subject matter experts (SME) together on latest and future trends in their industry (approx. 4-5 minutes) and post on website, YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and cross promote to Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Encourage comments and oversee comments by quick turnover of comments by SME.
      • Video interview several staff subject matter experts together on latest and future trends in company capability fields (approx. 4-5 minutes) and post on website, YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and cross promote to Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Encourage comments and ensure quick responses to all comments from one of the subject matter experts (SME).
      • Video interview a variety of SMEs on “why they like working for your company” (approx. 1 minute) and piece together on website for recruiting and then post , YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and cross promote to Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Encourage feedback and coordinate responses to all comments by SME.

References

Ash, T. (June 24, 2014).Using Customer Stories to Build Trust and Increase Conversions (Links to an external site.).Burdett, D. (n.d.)Defense Contractors: Pros and Cons of Social Media Platforms (Links to an external site.).

Kittaneh, F. (Dec. 9, 2014).5 Social Media Sources of Testimonials for Your Business (Links to an external site.)

Beasley, C. (June 5, 2013).Using Testimonials, Endorsements and Online reviews in Your Marketing – How to Ensure You aren’t Breaking the Law (Links to an external site.).

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