|Why Ratings, Reviews and Recommendations Matter.|
By Robin Houghton
Sunday, 31st May 2009
Let's say you've got a great product or service and you want to promote it using social media, you know you can't approach the social web as if it were old-style marketing.
Targeting prospects, talking about consumers and audiences, crafting and broadcasting your messages - that's not the way it works. But as you explore social media sites and communities you can see what it's all about. Successful brands are the ones that get recommendations and positive reviews and ratings.
Wherever there's content, there are the tools to rate it. Think of all those buttons you see asking you to 'rate this' - be it a product, service, article, video, comment or just about anything.
All online communities have their own rating tools and ways of encouraging people to use them. Blip.fm is a free music service where everyone's a DJ and is encouraged to 'give props' to other DJs if they like their music selections. On LinkedIn, members are invited to respond to the queries of other members, who then rate the answers according to how useful they are. On Ebay and Amazon Marketplace, after you've made a purchase you're invited to rate the seller on a scale. A high rating on social bookmarking sites such as Delicious or Digg is taken by many as a measurement of good content.
The effect of these tools is to 'label' stuff in terms of its value. It doesn't matter if it's a person's expertise, a hotel, a handbag or a photo of your pet dog, whatever you flaunt on the social web, expect it to be rated.
Less rigid than a rating, recommendations are more the online equivalent of 'word of mouth'. Recommending extends the notion of sharing, the basic juice which powers the social web.
The immediacy of Twitter is well suited to the giving and receiving of recommendations. Sometimes communities create their own tools to standardise this and a good example is 'followfriday', a way of recommending others to follow on Twitter.
When you recommend something, you're sticking your neck out. A recommendation from someone who's already built a reputation for social value is extremely valuable in itself. However, a recommendation for a product or service in which it turns out you have a vested interest, without having disclosed that fact, will devalue your social net worth in no time at all.
If you've ever bought anything online you'll be familiar with customer reviews, especially on travel, hospitality and shopping sites.
I often hear the opinion that reviews are too easily infiltrated by competitors posting negative comments. This may once have been an issue but my feeling is that we're all a bit savvier than we were a few years ago and fake reviews are easier to spot. It's also now an offence for over-enthusiastic PR firms to masquerade as ordinary consumers online, so it's less of a free-for-all. Besides, even if you read ten positive reviews and one negative one about the same service, by people you don't know, why would you only believe the bad one?
Mail order fashion retailer Boden encourages customers to rate individual products and happily displays both positive and negative comments on its website, using the feedback to improve its product development process. That for me is the sign of a retailer who's not only confident in its products but open minded enough to listen to and learn from customers.
So, in a nutshell:
Eggbox Marketing - www.eggboxmarketing.co.uk
- Find interesting content created by others, share it and be seen to share it
- Create interesting content of your own, relevant to whatever it is you're selling
- Give people the tools & encouragement to rate, review & recommend you/your content/your business