I was reading an article on Brand Republic titled "Is Social Recommendation the New Currency", and at the bottom was a comment by Guatama Payment, which was especially interesting. He makes the point that the true gold is in the influencers. Ultimately I believe it's a larger audience than 1% that spread the word on your products, perhaps many of them offline, but the principle is valid. By engaging these influencers you are reaching the 'holy grail' of your customer set!
The credibility that underlies word-of-mouth and it's endorsement is nothing new. We've all been communicating person to person since the dawn of time. If anything we are returning to our roots, preferring relationships with people, that are meaningful and rewarding to the cold mass automation of the factory mindset.
We can look at numbers endlessly and try to determine where the eye-balls are and what spaces they have left and perhaps, where they might go. But here you are still just estimating and acting in a broadcast manner. That may have been the way offline, but its not utilizing what is most precious and unique online. The web is personalised and on demand. It is person to person services and conversations, and it should reduce barriers and bring people together. If a brand can meet people at this level and utilize technology that is effective and efficient, and a manner that is genuine and authentic – then it is surely potent to explode onto the scene garnering trust and loyalty. In such a way social networks are useful to brands, but there is something more.
The real holy grail of social networks lies in the power of the enthusiasts themselves. They are the ones, usually only making up 1% of the crowd who are the initiators and the influencers. They are the ones who propogate messages on their own time, with their own energy, and spread it out, innovate on it and creates fresh ideas. They can do it because their relationships are credible and authentic and their motives for involvement are situated in an inate core enthusiasm that they share with the brand or product.
I don't think social recommendation is a 'new' social currency, but rather something we've always had. What is new today is the unprecedented access to free online tools that make communication, networking and sharing easy enough that anyone can do it who wants to do it. Consumers today usually know more about a brand's product than most people working within the brand. If they don't know it, they soon will. And when they do, they'll share it.
Get in with your core 1%. Do the ground work and use the technology at hand to make people connections, encourage conversation and be honest. Theory behind word-of-mouth marketing, engaging enthusiasms and utilizing the platform of social networks is all meaningless if the brand itself continues to build billboards online and hope that 'if you build it, they will come'