Recommendations will transform your brand and your business

The ability to easily research online consumer reviews or see which brands your friends "like" is fundamentally shifting how people buy - and sell - nearly everything.

As consumers, we know first-hand the power of a recommendation. This falls well above any form of advertising, editorial coverage, email campaign, or flavor-of-the-month social media marketing platform.

Social media has supercharged the power and impact of word of mouth and recommendations. The ability to easily research online consumer reviews or see which brands your friends “like” is fundamentally shifting how people buy – and sell – nearly everything.

Today, we have the power to clearly understand where, how, and why brands get recommended or criticized, and then to proactively shape messages and directly connect with those who matter the most. The best part is that you can almost immediately see how people are engaging with you, and if that engagement is leading to a recommendation, and ultimately, a sale.

Understanding why and how consumers talk about and, more importantly, recommend a product is a new concept to the marketing world. But it is changing everything, from PR and other marketing channels to customer service, HR, and product innovation and R&D.

Meanwhile, the marketing world is still primarily focused on “push” marketing – pushing various marketing activities to get brand messages in front of potential and existing customers, essentially interrupting target segments, very seldom with success. Add to this reality the fact that a typical American is exposed to 30,000 advertising messages daily.

Marketers know they have to change how they do business in the realm of the socially connected consumer. As a result, many companies are aggressively working to adopt and integrate social media and word-of-mouth strategies into their marketing plans.

Those who put word of mouth and recommendations at the center of the marketing mix, along with a winning business model, are almost guaranteed success. Those who get it wrong – even with an overwhelming amount of ads, spin, buzz, follows, or likes – are almost guaranteed to be left behind.

Paul Rand (@paulmrand) is the president and CEO of Zócalo Group, a word of mouth, social, and digital marketing agency and a division of Omnicom Group and Ketchum.

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