Monday, June 09, 2008

Recommending the thoughts of JP Rangaswami...

JP Rangaswami (one of my personal recommendations in the Rock Stars of Web2.0 list) has been considering the idea of twitter 'tweets' as recommendations.
I've had my own musings about marketing in this medium. Among others.
JP's take is to define what makes a recommendation different from an advert.
He says:

  1. The tweet must be unbiased, it must be about an entity that is in no way connected financially with the tweeter
  2. The tweet must be clear in signalling something sufficiently positive about the entity
  3. The tweet must be actionable, it must link to somewhere that the tweetee can do something about the recommendation
  4. Most importantly, a tweet becomes a recommendation when the tweetee decides it is one
He says his fourth point is the most important. I'd argue it could stand alone. It stands out and alone because it is the one that is all about how much you trust the recommendor. Trust is what transforms what might otherwise be seen as an advert into a valued recommendation.

We build that trust on a whole super-structure of metadata. The ability of one factor to bring that house of cards tumbling down will vary from instance to instance (and it is a precariously constructed structure, one which requires we don't lean too heavily on its walls, or over load it by piling card after card on top).

Yes it helps if there is no financial connection between you and the product or service you recommend if you want me to trust your recommendation, but not as much as it matters that I trust (or don't trust) your opinion in the first place.

I'll take the chef's recommendation in his restaurant, for example. I'm particularly likely to take it if he knows my taste. And I'll take a friend's recommendation on the right mobile phone package for me - even if he works for one of the operators. I trust him to do the right thing for me more than for the organisation he has a financial interest in.

I'm not that fussed about number 2, the clarity issue. In the conversational mode of twitter you can always ask for clarification. A recommendation would typically require this.

Even number 3 is of low importance to me. Adding links is a kind of nice-to-have, make-life-easy function. But we have google. And we like to control our own user experience. Direct links are fine if helpful - but lead me to your checkout page on amazon and I might gag.

No, for me, point 4 is king: "a tweet becomes a recommendation when the tweetee decides it is one".

The tweetee makes that decision based on whether or not they trust the tweetor, and whether or not the tweetor is talking about something they are interested in today.

In fact, the most effective manifestation of this is when the tweetee is the tweetor (sorry!) ie the person wanting a recommendation is seeking a recommendation. I ask my network of trust which small wifi-enabled decent-sized keyboard device to buy, they tell me the asus eeepc.

And it is this that led me to the idea of Conversations of Intent

It's very much inline with Doc's VRM (I believe) and also with JP's conclusion:
"It is the “follower” who imbues the “tweeter” with the “recommender” tag about a particular class of social object."

So here I am sharing the thoughts of JP Rangaswami, Doc Searls, Hugh MacLeod and Mark Earls. You can choose to treat this as recommendation. But only if you trust me.

Marketing is not something you do to people.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?