Peer-to-Peer Advocacy Most Trusted but Advocacy on Social Web has Greatest Reach

When evaluating the effect of advocacy on others, it’s important to note that depending on the audience who is receiving a recommendation, the trust and reach varies. Individuals in your social network can be grouped into three segments:

Immediate social network: These are the people you have a strong relationship with; you know each other’s personality traits, tastes, and preferences. Your family, friends, and close colleagues.

Extended social network: This group consists of people that you know personally (or virtually) but to a lesser extent than your immediate social network. Your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, online community members.

Social web: These are people that you come across online but have no previous relationship with. People who read/write reviews on shopping sites like Amazon and third party review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.

An Advocate recommendation across these three distinct networks varies with the level of trust and the degree of reach associated with that recommendation. In fact, according to Nielsen, 70% of people trust consumer opinions online, while 90% trust their friends.

Take a look at the graph below. (X axis= Trust, Y axis= Reach.) As the reach of the social network increases, the level of trust decreases.

For example, I recently made a recommendation for Tony’s Pizza in San Francisco’s Little Italy district to a few of my friends (which was first recommended to me by Augie Ray.) Their pizza is absolutely delicious and very authentic, similar to pizza you can get in Italy. Though I told only these three people about Tony’s, they are great friends of mine and hence, my recommendation carries more trust.

In addition to making a recommendation to my friends offline, I wrote a review on Yelp. This recommendation can reach many more people (about 150 according to Forrester Research's Peer Influence Analysis) but since readers of the review do not personally know me (my taste, preferences, demographic, etc), they might take my review with a grain of salt.

Energizing Advocates can be a successful marketing strategy in reaching all three segments, both offline and online. When allowing Advocates to share recommendations, offers, and more, it is extremely valuable to include the ability to share to all three segments. Give your Advocates the choice to share via email (Immediate Social Network), Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn (Extended Social Network), or encourage them to post their review to third party review sites (Social Web.)