The Internet of recommendation or everything is marketing
From time to time, there is a new buzzword floating around which creates possibilities for new services and businesses. Existing companies expand their activities or make changes to optimise revenues. By Marek Molicki, Regional Manager from Gemius.
This is most commonly seen on the Internet, where roughly every 1.5 years we see a new (or rather, re-worded) phenomenon or method to give you the advantage. It's actually rather hard to build your advantage on something that everyone else is doing, but that’s a different story altogether. Sure, you can stand out if you do better than the rest, but there is only room for three on the podium.
Sometimes I think that most people forget the crucial thing
After almost 20 years of working in the online industry, I have seen it all. I have observed how groups of so-called experts have popped up like mushrooms literally overnight. Furthermore, people have created new companies capable of delivering services such as SEM, SEO and inbound marketing, to name a few. The weirder the buzzword, the better. To be honest, it’s quite funny how the world has gone crazy about content marketing. People have been communicating with each other forever and, since the moment that printing became popular (thank you, Mr. Gutenberg!), people have had the opportunity to touch the actual content. In the space of a day, or rather a night, it became apparent that not only content was king, but also content marketing. Of course, it was the employees of Google who first suggested that content was extremely important, but this was no revelation. What they did was shed light on the already obvious: the things that are more visible on the Internet.
Tell me, what is the most common reason for people to use the Internet, besides for entertainment purposes? Answer: the most common reason is to solve a problem, to find the answer to an important question. I know I sound like Captain Obvious, but it was the big companies that first started to create content. This is obviously a good thing. Sharing knowledge is great. Sharing is caring. I'm happy whenever companies share their knowledge, because knowledge is progress. But I have the constant feeling that many people forget about the crucial things that are much greater than the content itself, such as search engine optimisation, usability, analysis, presence in price engine comparisons, etc.
We have all experienced that moment in life when we are about to buy something more expensive than just bread in the supermarket. For instance, whether you’re deciding to buy a new laptop, a TV set, a household appliance or even something more expensive, like a brand new car. We do research online, gathering all the necessary information about the product we want to buy to make the best-informed decision (this is where content marketing comes into play), but in the end, there is something more going on here. On the other hand, we also do it in situations where we don't want to spend a lot of money but are investing something even more important to us: our time and reputation. Do you know what I mean yet?
Word of mouth, or whether our friends recommended a product.
Before the Internet era, it was a little bit more complicated. You actually had to make a phone call at the very least (perhaps a few calls), or meet someone in person. Today, all you need to do is write a comment on Facebook and press ‘post’. That's it.
What's interesting is that everyone does this, even marketing specialists. What is strange, however, is that when it comes to making an offer there is a lot of information about tools and activities other than that which is most important. This reminds me of a few interesting situations in training sessions I have led. Participants would ask me what to do when unpleasant comments about them as employees appear online. I then proposed solving the problem together. And you know what? There was probably only one instance where someone asked, ‘Okay, but what if these comments aren’t really telling the truth?’ The fact of the matter is that, instead of getting into a debate in the comments section, your first instinct is to make a change in your company.
You can spend millions on advertising, but if your advertising won’t go hand in hand with your service or product in the long term, you are just losing money. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a big marketing budget, but if you have the proper approach, an approach that allows you to stand out to a client, your clients themselves will be your best source of PR.
Today a few friends on Facebook asked:
- Do you know of a good insurance agent?
- Do you know of a good repair crew?
- Do you know of the best place where I can buy a laptop and get the best advice from a salesperson?
- Do you know where in the city I can do a fun activity in an awesome environment?
Trust me: no one will recommend spending a dime on marketing from a reputational perspective. Paradoxically, there is no need for much; simply being reliable and honest is enough. I know of one gentleman who makes furniture. He has orders for the entire year and many years after that. He lives off the recommendation of his clients, so no marketing is required on his behalf. Literally nothing. Do you think that there are different rules for your companies?
It is the same, but the times have changed. In the era of the ubiquitous Internet and numerous communication platforms, reputation should be the overriding objective. There is a saying that a politician and a fly can both be killed by a newspaper. Nowadays, companies can be felled by using commonly available, legal tools like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. That is why it is so important (it was always important, but today it's simply more visible) to remember that every action, every person in the company has to do some form of marketing, PR and employer branding all at once.
How the company is perceived depends not only on the product and advertising campaigns but also on the behaviour of all employees, including in their free time. Consider whether you would entrust your money to a bank whose employees post pictures online from parties that would make the gentlemen from the Rolling Stones proud? Yes, I know most people like to have fun, and it makes no sense to play the hypocrite. However, this is an age where people assess and evaluate with relentless severity and without mercy. The same can happen when your customer service personnel fail to attend to the customer appropriately. Even worse is when someone from c-level behaves improperly, so before you start screaming at your employee, just be sure you're not participating in a project entitled ‘My manager on YouTube’.
I am aware that people make mistakes – the more actions you take, the greater the risk of error. It's all about statistics. But I have no doubt that we are witnessing a phenomenon that I call the ‘Internet of Recommendation’, where the most important factor determining whether we buy something or not is the recommendation of our friends and acquaintances.
Recommendation tends to be relatively safe, because it is unaffected by the risk found in the risk presented by brand ambassadors. It means our friends sharing their honest opinion with us, based on their own experiences. This is especially important to small and medium-sized businesses and the highly ambitious, who dream of conquering the world. Contrary to appearances, this can be executed with very little effort. In fact, it was always possible – but nowadays, thanks to the Internet and people whose world consists of being online or glued to their mobile phones, it is many times easier. With the knowledge of how simple it is to lose your good reputation in the blink of an eye, it's worth keeping in mind the Internet of Recommendation.