Are Endorsements and Recommendations Leading to Social Network Co-Ownership?


At the risk of creating another conversation layer before diving into the actual post — what do you think about the LinkedIn mechanism for endorsements? The image is from my profile, you can see a long list of items.

Many of the voters have worked with me directly, either as colleagues or agency partners, or clients, at one time or another. However, a few have not. That would explain why I received recommendations for types of work I have not actually done (and thus skipped displaying those on the profile). Part of the mechanism in place is social signal, people see others voting in a certain way and add theirs to it.

It's been a while since we talked about understanding recommendations, yet with the maturity of the early social efforts on one hand, and the more advanced digital experience offered by many brand presences, this topic is coming back in full force.

I'll pick up the topic where I left off in that post:

when you understand better why people recommend you and your business, you can do more of that and build on it, and less of the other stuff. The qualitative aspect of customer recommendations serves the dual purpose of adding an example, additional human data points, you might otherwise miss.

With mixed media, understanding recommendations, their role and effectiveness in the customer conversation mix is even more important. What works? What doesn't? Both for your customers and for you.

Does sharing mean endorsing?

We had a good discussion about this theme — 27 comments — a record in recent years, with all the social activity happening on networks vs. blogs. In the post, I reasoned people have only so many hours in a day. And we do know that relationships are often a proxy or shortcut for getting more stuff done without getting too deep in the details.

It works well with products. You have your go-to experts you trust with knowledge on cars, for example. They'll hear from you if something goes wrong with your purchase. And as a good option, we also go to ratings and reviews from strangers, who we perceive as "people like us". The impact of reviews on buying behavior is well documented.

It works with entertainment as well. Go see that movie, it will keep you on the edge of your seat, etc. Movie as the social signal we share openly to find other fans of a certain genre, story plot, etc.

Does it work with content in general? With Google+ and Authorship, we are starting to see the impact of quality content and social interaction affect search results. I'm not going all SEO on you, yet search and social have been on my mind ever since Google launched G+ and then connected its Reader product to it, drawing content and sharing together.

Quoting myself in the next few paragraphs. Was seeing behind corners?

What I said at the time:

Here's why this change is good — the share layer will follow what you consume. It will also be where you create, communicate, and schedule. The best part is that they share your data about activity with you. Brilliant.

Little I knew GReader would be eliminated from the mix, making the integration of content and sharing public and utilizing G+ as the preferred social network for sharing and social signals.

And back we are to content as social signal. I wondered about deconstructing an experience and the levels of potential sharing (and impact) with digital and social at our fingertips.

Say going to the movies:

When things work out great and people feel it was a good use of their time, their experience becomes a direct recommendation to a friend — you've got to see that movie.

The brand promise is now extended from the movie, in your case your story and copy, to the promise of the person making the recommendation. This is as good as it gets in the social sphere. Online or offline, private or public are secondary to the strength of the signal.

When the experience is one of many cool ones, it becomes a four-to-five start review. In this case, it becomes a social signal, usually public, for expertise, knowledge, interest, being in tune with fashions, etc. I use an example from Rotten Tomatoes in the post.

It's fascinating to read one's own comments on evolving social networks a few years later.

In that same post, I said: From what I have seen on Google+, they are dedicating resources to learning with users. They are listening, there is evidence in your G+, unless you're hiding under a rock, and they have been pretty fast on rolling out features on a live network.

So although they could do a better job with designing the experience with the need for manual circles, for example, I hope Google pulls it off, because it kicks Zuckerberg's gilded prison doors down.

One thought leads to another and so I am quoting Adam Tinworth, who in turn quotes Cliff Watson.

I've just seen a community I'm a member of almost wiped out by a single troll and some automatic button-pushing at Facebook. That's no way to build a sustainable set of relationships.

Have we reached a turning point? One when we are becoming both more judicious about where we spend the time — after all, our data and content are the fruit of our labor. Will digital networks ruin us?# Asks Joe Nocera at the NYT: [h/t Fred Wilson]

the value of these new companies comes from us. “Instagram isn’t worth a billion dollars just because those 13 employees are extraordinary,” he writes. “Instead, its value comes from the millions of users who contribute to the network without being paid for it.” He adds, “Networks need a great number of people to participate in them to generate significant value. But when they have them, only a small number of people get paid. This has the net effect of centralizing wealth and limiting overall economic growth.” Thus, in Lanier’s view, is income inequality also partly a consequence of the digital economy.

Contributions could be considered a form of endorsement and/or recommendation. Does that we we should shift to a  model of ownership with contribution? Will that help stave off the dark side of social and encourage the community- and relationship-building efforts, make them sustainable over the long run?

Thinking out loud here.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.