Mirrors, not billboards.

If you look at your own online presence, the composite of your profiles and behaviors, do you see your true self staring back? Yes, says Dan Rose, Facebook’s VP of Business Development and Platform Marketing. As we move from the Information Web to the Social Web, Rose argues, our online presence is less like a sketch of our offline selves, and more like a high-definition reflection.

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Dan RoseKeynoting the 2011 Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Summit, Rose discussed social design for commerce and our present and future lives online. Consumers have long relied on friends, family, and peers to inform their everyday decisions, especially when making purchase decisions. We overhear conversations about new music to check out, or we trust the cookware suggestions of the foodies we know. The Internet initially promised to deliver the virtual equivalent of these experiences, but instead ended up looking “a lot like a search box,” which was conducive to “spearfishing”—using the Internet to find the best prices on products we’ve already chosen.  Over the last five years, the Social Web has revived—and begun to fulfill—the original promise of the Internet:

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Rose touched on research that found that “more than half of Americans find news through friends and family”, and that “60% of jobs are found through friends.” In our News Feeds, we see what our friends are doing and consuming, thus gathering the same kind of information as when we’re with them in person.

“For the first fifteen years of the Internet, web ads looked like highway billboards,” said Rose. Marketers pushed messages, but provided “no ability for people to push back.” The Like button is one way consumers can “push back” through the Social Web—showing our networks our interest in the ads we find appealing.  In this way and others, seemingly small or mindless gestures are actually fundamentally changing the way people buy:

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A huge amount of research supports the idea of the Social Web as a powerful commerce engine. Some highlights:

  • “38% of consumers have followed through (at least once) with a friend’s recommendation they have received via social media.”  Empathica Consumer Insights Q2, 2010
  • American Eagle Outfitters (a Bazaarvoice client) added Like buttons to every product page, and saw that visitors from Facebook spend an average of 57% more than other visitors
  • Levi’s (a Bazaarvoice client) sourced 50% of their 2010 Cyber Monday traffic to Facebook
  • Working with Bazaarvoice, Benefit Cosmetics has received more than 1,700 product reviews on their Facebook Page. Click-through rates on Buy Now buttons on Benefit’s Facebook Page are 10 times higher than the average online ad’s

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By designing your brand’s social experience around people, you are building it into the way consumers actually behave online. Your goal, according to Rose, should be to replace the purchase funnel with a “viral loop.”  This forms when onsite activity is shared back with Facebook networks, drawing users to your site because “[their] friends are there.” “This,” said Rose “is word of mouth on steroids.”

As an example of this viral loop, Rose highlighted the integrations Bazaarvoice and Facebook have recently rolled out on Travelocity.com, allowing visitors to see which destinations, hotels, etc., their Facebook friends have reviewed. Visitors can also ask their Facebook friends for trip advice, right from Travelocity.com.

Rose ended his talk by challenging audience members, who represented many of the biggest companies in the world, to “push yourself further, be more extreme, be more bold, make your product more social, and truly harness the power of the Social Web.”

When you look at your brand’s online presence, do you see an experience built around people, or products? This is customer-centricity in the era of the Social Web.

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