For as long as people have been running businesses, business owners have been passing on the nugget of information that:
a recommendation is worth more than anything you can ever advertise;
and I don’t think anyone would argue with that, even today.
Personal recommendations are gold dust; they lend instant credibility, they generate sales enquiries, and in many cases they prompt entirely unexpected new business (and by extension a network of connected individuals who share their contacts). Why then, when businesses are entirely happy for recommendations to be shared in person – over the telephone, by e-mail or even by letter – do many still shun the potential of recommendations by social media?
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, to name but three, are enormous networks of connected individuals who daily – in many cases hourly –talk and share information with their networks. One of those messages could be about your product, it could be a recommendation, maybe even a public one, why wouldn’t you want to capitalise on this live interactivity by having a profile and monitoring social media networks for people talking about your brand?
It’s not just individual recommendations, social media has enabled the group to have a voice, and that voice is only going to get louder. In September, Google launched SideWiki giving users the ability to add notes visible to all about any web page; and if you think this doesn’t apply to your brand, think again. It’s going to apply to everyone. Whether you’re praising your garage for looking after your car, or criticising the petrol company that you’re shaming with a bumper sticker; the age of the one way message is over.
Your public relations strategy should embrace the conversation by becoming a part of it. The direct nature of social media allows your brand to challenge misconceptions, thank ‘good’ customers, respond to news stories, and do it not through the traditionally dry press release, but instead turn to social media and engage directly. PR has always been a dialogue, but for the first time there is the very real opportunity to actually engage with not just your networks, but your customers, your evangelists, even your detractors, and to do so in a way that – when used sensitively – can excite, educate and encourage whole groups of people to talk about your brand to their networks… and just think of where those recommendations could take you.