social recommendations

Safelite Turns Enthusiastic Customers into Volunteer Marketing Force

When most people think of brands that have thousands of enthusiastic fans, they typically think of popular "passion" brands like Apple, BMW, or Starbucks. Well, now you can add Safelite AutoGlass to that list. Safelite AutoGlass® is the nation’s leading provider of vehicle glass repair and replacement services.

In only a few months, Safelite has created a thriving army of over 50,000 Safelite Advocates. These Advocates are enthusiastically recommending Safelite via positive reviews and glowing testimonials, driving thousands of referral clicks and dramatically boosting Safelite’s Facebook fan base.

Authentic Advocates

Importantly, Safelite is not paying or providing financial incentives to its Advocates in exchange for their recommendations. Instead, Safelite is making it easy for its enthusiastic customers to recommend the Safelite brand and its services, using Zuberance's online advocacy system.

“By energizing Safelite AutoGlass Advocates, we’re amplifying positive Word of Mouth, demonstrating our commitment to customer delight and driving sales in a very cost-effective way,” said Jennifer L. Kielmeyer, strategic marketing manager for Safelite.

“Safelite has always known they have highly-satisfied customers who recommend the company. However, Safelite wasn’t leveraging these customers to increase positive awareness and drive sales. Now, powered by Zuberance, Safelite is transforming its Advocates into a sustainable marketing force,” said Rob Fuggetta, Founder and CEO of Zuberance.

(Read full press release here.)

-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance

Paying Customers For Referrals May Backfire

Many companies like banks and others pay their customers for referrals.

Thinking about paying customers for referrals? You may want to think again about this approach.

Paying customers for referrals actually makes customers less likely to refer prospects to you, especially when the prospect learns that that the customer is being paid for the referral, according to a study, “Social Sharing Behavior Under E-Commerce Context.”

If you find out a friend has recommended a restaurant, hotel, smart phone, or other product because he’s being paid, you’re much less likely to trust the recommendation. On the other hand, there is nothing more powerful than a genuine recommendation from an authentic Brand Advocate.

Alex Littlewood, one of our customer success directors, talks about this in his excellent blog post “Why Referral Programs Suck.”

Recommendations are always less trusted and credible if the recommender is getting paid.

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance

Face Time: The Power of Brand Advocacy

This article was originally posted on McKinsey&Company's Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Forum. In this interview, Rob Fuggetta, the founder and CEO of Zuberance, discusses the role of brand advocacy in driving growth at the end of the customer decision journey.

In search of the holy grail: authentic recommendations

“In the social media age, the holy grail for marketing leaders is getting customers to authentically recommend you. Or as Antonio Lucio (Global chief marketing, strategy and corporate development officer, Visa Inc.) recently said, ‘recommendations have become the new advertising.’

The most critical element of brand advocacy is authenticity. That’s why we (Zuberance) strongly recommend to brands that they never pay or reward their advocates. The moment someone knows you’re being paid to advocate for something, it immediately devalues their recommendation. From our research, we know that the number one reason people recommend is that they want to help others. If you have a good experience, you want to tell others. Social media multiplies that effect. You just have to make it easy for your brand advocates to do.”

CMOs have fallen behind their customers

“There certainly are plenty of challenges in developing brand advocates. Some brands and industries just don’t attract passionate buyers. In other cases brands don’t have a direct relationship with their buyers. But the most critical issue in my experience is that many marketing leaders don’t fully understand social media and its potential for driving brand advocacy. They’re still trying to get their minds around SEO. But the customer is way ahead of them.

Many consumers ignore paid and owned media, and instead turn to earned media. But up to 70 percent to 90 percent of marketing spend still goes to advertising and promotions. Marketers are setting up Facebook pages and spending a lot of effort and money trying to followers. Or they’re using Twitter for customer support but they’re not thinking in terms of advocacy and harnessing the power of their customers.

But I really think this goes beyond the CMO. The question of brand advocacy should be at the top of the CEO agenda as well. Advocacy is strategic. Advocates drive profits. Companies with happy customers grow faster than those without. It just makes sense to me. You have to evangelize evangelism.”

Converging media help conversions

“Any marketing leader launching a new product needs to figure out how to integrate earned media into their mix of owned and paid media. There is no question that consumers trust earned media significantly more than paid or owned media. In a Nielsen survey from 2009, 90 percent of consumers said they trusted recommendations from people they knew. What’s really interesting, however, is the convergence of these three media mix types, and how that can help drive conversion rates.

We tried this with Tivo, a client of ours. We found brand advocates – those who were passionate about Tivo – and provided them a way to easily share a video about a new product, Tivo Premiere, with their friends. There was no offer, no cash reward – we just made it easy.

Based on our tracking, 5 percent of the people who received the video actually went to Tivo and purchased Tivo Premiere. Many marketing programs have sales conversion rates of less than 1 percent. Not only did Tivo see a good transaction rate, they also earned higher margins because they didn’t have to sell through 3rd parties because consumers go straight to their site.”

Creating a culture of customer obsession

“Often times I see companies act to optimize short-term profits at the expense of advocacy. They cut back on services or maintenance, or provide fewer checkout people. In their desire to generate profits, companies are often destroying the very thing that made them a great company.

People at Virgin, Nordstroms, Jet Blue get that. Intuit has done a great job of creating a culture of customer obsession. They’ve been asking their customers for years ‘how likely will you recommend this product to a friend?’ In the past, companies could get away with bad service. But today, word of mouth spreads like wildfire with social media. It’s not like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas anymore; today it’s what happens in Vegas stays on Facebook.”


Ooma's VP of Marketing on the Benefits of Energizing Their Brand Advocates

Ooma has the #1 rated VoIP service according to Consumer Reports. Now, Ooma is turning thousands of its highly-satisfied customers (AKA “Brand Advocates”) into a powerful Word of Mouth marketing force. Jim Gustke, VP of Marketing for Ooma, discusses the benefits of energizing their Brand Advocates.

Some of the highlights from Ooma's advocacy program:

  • Built a Brand Army of 20,000+ Ooma Advocates (Ooma envisions a Brand Army of hundreds of thousands of Ooma Advocates)
  • 63% of Ooma customers identified themselves as Advocates
  • Advocates gave the Ooma device an average star rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars
  • 34% of Ooma Advocates who have created reviews have published them on,, Facebook, and Twitter
  • For a recent Advocate campaign, Ooma got a 6.25% sales conversion rate for offers shared by Advocates

Report: How Top Performers Leverage Social Networking to Mobilize Brand Advocacy

Market research firm, Gleanster, recently released a report called, "Deep Dive: How Top Performers Leverage Social Networking to Mobilize Brand Advocacy." The report explores some of the strategies, tactics, and tools currently being implemented by Top Performers in their online customer advocacy programs. Gleanster highlights that consumers are naturally inclined to share their experiences with a product or service, and they've been participating with company Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for some time now. But truly leveraging the enthusiasm of your most active supporters- moving them to influence others- takes more than a basic social media ccount. True brand advocacy programs allow companies to identify and motivate their most ardent fans while providing insights and systems that work at scale.

A few key takeaways:

  • Brand advocacy programs effectively drive new customer acquisition, ultimately resulting in higher sales.
  • Companies need to make sharing recommendations as easy and convenient as possible, and also make it possible for Advocates to disseminate their recommendations across multiple networks in one well swoop.
  • Brand advocacy programs can provide companies with important insights into the wants and needs- both met and unmet- of their most satisfied customers. These insights can help drive new product development as well as new loyalty programs and other initiatives that focus on enhancing the overall customer experience.

Download "How Top Performers Leverage Social Networking to Mobilize Brand Advocacy" now.

-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance

Crack the Facebook Marketing Code: How to Overcome EdgeRank

As a marketer, you may have heard of a small (and by small, I mean gigantic) obstacle to overcome in regards to Facebook marketing: EdgeRank- the algorithm Facebook uses to determine what content will show up in a user’s newsfeed. If you aren’t aware of EdgeRank and it’s implications, let me give you a brief breakdown (a more detailed explanation can be found here): The EdgeRank formula takes into consideration three variables:

  • Affinity (u): how often you interact on Facebook with that particular user (or brand page)
  • Weight (w): how much interaction on that particular post (likes, comments, etc)
  • Time (d): how long ago the post was published

Why EdgeRank is Important

According to, 88% of Facebook users never return to a fan page once they click the “Like” button, meaning that most users consume branded content in their newsfeed (which EdgeRank determines.)

But here’s the kicker:

Each time a brand posts to their Facebook page, only about 16%-18.5% of fans actually see the post in their newsfeeds (Source: comScore, Facebook.)

Recent Decrease in Engagement

In addition to EdgeRank, another obstacle has sprung up for page owners since Facebook’s recent updates. As outlined in a Simply Zesty post, “Facebook Starting to Seriously Piss Off Business Page Owners,” many brands have seen a dramatic decrease in impressions and engagement on their Facebook pages, particularly for pages that do not invest in Facebook advertising. The new changes to subscribing, timelines, and friend lists mean that brand pages are barely showing up in user’s feeds any more.

How to Overcome Edgerank

EdgeRank + Facebook updates = a big time marketing headache. What’s a social media strategist to do?

SOLUTION: Instead of spending time figuring out how to crack the EdgeRank algorithm, why not focus on a more scalable and valuable approach to Facebook marketing: getting your super fans to spread content for you.

Identify your Brand Advocates not just on Facebook, but across all customer touch points: email, Twitter, newsletter, company website, product pages, etc. by asking them “The Ultimate Question,” How likely are you to recommend [brand/product] to your friends? People that answer a 9 or 10 on a 1-10 scale are your brand’s Advocates and social media marketing machines.

Arm your brand army with content and encourage them to share with their Facebook friends and/or other networks. This could be new product announcements, videos, offers, whitepapers, etc.

Superfans Mean Super Benefits

Energizing your Advocates to share on Facebook has some major benefits over pushing content through your Facebook page:

  • Increase reach and visibility. Posting content to your Facebook page reaches a subset of your fans who are already connected to you. Mobilizing Advocates to share to their networks allows you to expand the reach beyond your fan base and continue to build your brand army.
  • Increase click-through rates. Let’s face it…Consumers don’t trust marketers. They trust their friends. Which are you more likely to click on: a review on the new Kindle Touch posted by your friend or by Kindle's Facebook page?
  • Improve targeting. Instead hoping the right 16-18.5% of your fans see and interact with your posts, go straight to your Advocates who's genuine enthusiasm for your brand will motivate them to share and recommend to their friends.


Learn more about leveraging your super fans on Facebook by downloading our latest whitepaper, "Turning Fans and Followers into Brand Advocates."



-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance

Webinar Recording: Secrets of B2B Social Media & Word of Mouth Marketing #B2BWOM

Below is the recording from our recent webinar on "Secrets of B2B Social Media & Word of Mouth Marketing" during which top marketers with a breadth of experience running B2B marketing shared social media success stories from brands like Intuit, Adobe, Microsoft, and CDW.

View more videos from Zuberance
Key Takeaways:
  • Only 5% of Chief Marketing Officers rate their companies' online marketing performance as excellent.
  • B2B marketers say their top challenges are generating more leads, reaching decision makers, and improving lead quality.
  • One of CDW's best marketers and salespeople is "Hard-core" CDW Advocate, Justin Dorfman.
  • 83% of online consumers say online reviews influence their purchases.
  • Intuit found that Advocates love to share new product information before the public launch (beyond just discount offers.)
  • Companies can double their conversions by putting Advocate-generated recommendations on product pages.
  • 80% of Intuit's sales are driven by Word of Mouth.
  • Brand Advocates are your secret B2B marketing weapon- 90% of buyers trust Word of Mouth vs 14% trust ads.
  • Advocacy best practices: 1) Don't pay your Advocates. 2) Make Advocate/Word of Mouth marketing part of ongoing marketing mix. 3) Scale and track advocacy programs.
  • How to identify Advocates: Ask them The Ultimate Question, "How likely are you to recommend our brand/product to your friends and colleagues?"
  • Build your brand army by identifying Advocates across touch points: Email, website, call center, product page, social media, packaging, etc.
  • Advocates recommend because they've had a great experience with your brand/product and they want to help others.

We also conducted a poll during the webinar and asked the audience, "How much of your business comes from Word of Mouth?" ANSWER: 48% say that 50% or more of their business comes from WOM. (See results below.)

Make sure to download our "Top 5 Myths of B2B Word of Mouth" whitepaper.

-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance

Extreme Brand Advocate Story: Justin Dorfman, a CDW Champion and Friend #Energize

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book, “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines,” by Rob Fuggetta, Founder & CEO, Zuberance. Most people assume that advocacy is limited only to sexy or cool brands like Apple, Starbucks, or Porsche. Not true. Advocates of business brands can also be just as enthusiastic.

Hard-Core CDW Advocate: Justin Dorfman

Justin Dorfman is a self-described “hard-core CDW Advocate.” (CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education, and healthcare. Ranked No. 38 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies, CDW features dedicated account managers who help customers choose the right technology products and services to meet their needs.)

Dorfman, 26, is a support engineer for NetDNA, a content delivery network based in Los Angeles. Dorfman’s passion for CDW was ignited back in 2004 when he bought his first product – a RAID controller, a device that manages physical disk drives – from CDW while working for Western Costume Company, a costume warehouse in Hollywood. He was so impressed with CDW’s responsiveness and customer service that he said: “Oh my God, I’m in love with this company.”

The Interal CDW Champion

Since then, he’s purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of computer gear from CDW while serving in IT positions for other companies. For example, when he started a new position as a junior systems engineer in December 2009 at Mahalo, he started buying gear from CDW. “I turned Mahalo into a CDW customer,” says Dorfman. In the 16 months he was at Mahalo, the company purchased about $200,000 in computer gear from CDW, largely as a result of Dorfman’s enthusiastic advocacy.

CDW has never paid Dorfman for his recommendations. “I put my reputation on the line for CDW and they’ve stood by me. They deliver every time,” says Dorfman. He adds: “They’re reliable. They don’t lie. You get your own account manager. There’s no calling and waiting on hold. They care for IT professionals. They know what we’re up against. They really get it.”

Establishing Advocate Relationships

Dorfman has become Facebook friends with CDW Senior Account Manager, Matt Cipolla. Cipolla has even recommended Dorfman on LinkedIn. “We know each other’s girlfriend’s names. We’re on a first-name basis. You’re just not going to get that from other IT companies,” says Dorfman.

In addition to evangelizing CDW to colleagues and friends offline, Dorfman recommends CDW online on Twitter (@jdorfman, where he has 443 followers as of July 2011;) by re-Tweeting CDW’s content and deals; talking them up on his blog (; his personal website Frugal IT; and on Spiceworks, an online community for IT professionals, where he created a “I love CDW” icon.

Lauren McCadney, Sr. Segment Marketing Manager for CDW, says: “I believe he (Justin) has come to represent the future of marketing:  influential Brand Advocates that establish a personal relationship with their favorite brands.  I've worked him for more years than I can count. And it was only in the last five years that I've come to really know customers like Justin as both a source of consumer insight but also as a friend.”

Read more: “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines”

Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance

An Attribution Model for Word of Mouth

Attribution models are used by search marketers to give equal credit to all ads the user clicks on in the purchase path, not just the final ad. Word of Mouth (WOM) also needs an attribution model.

The example below shows how WOM plays a highly influential role in a consumer’s restaurant dining choice: (Note that I’ve simplified the purchase decision process to illustrate the point about the value of WOM.)

  • Awareness: Customer learns about restaurant via WOM recommendation from friend.
  • Consideration: Customer reads positive reviews about restaurant on Yelp. Again, WOM plays a key role.
  • Purchase: Customer goes to OpenTable and makes restaurant reservation.
  • Advocacy: Customer recommends restaurant to his friends, which leads to additional purchases.

In the example above, OpenTable would get credit for the purchase because it was the final click in the purchase path. However, WOM deserves credit for heavily influencing the purchase decision. In fact, without the initial WOM recommendation and the positive reviews of the restaurant on Yelp, the consumer probably would never have chosen the restaurant. This means that WOM should actually get more credit than the click or last action immediately before the purchase.

Since WOM plays a highly influential role in the two steps leading up to the purchase, the restaurant should give credit to WOM for at least two-thirds of the value that it currently gives to OpenTable. If the restaurant is paying $2 to OpenTable for each reservation, WOM deserves $1.32 of the credit for this reservation. (OpenTable charges a pay-for-performance fee of $1 per seated diner booked on OpenTable.)

By the way, this doesn’t take into consideration the value of the fourth stage in the decision process - advocacy - where the customer recommends the restaurant to his or her friends.

To sum up, then, here’s a simple way to assign value to WOM:

  1. Model the customer decision process.
  2. Analyze what role WOM plays at each step in the customer’s purchase decision process.
  3. Assign value to the role of WOM based on what you currently pay for the last click or action before the purchase occurs.

This attribution model isn’t perfect (very few are.) But at least it can help you analyze the value of WOM in the purchase decision process.

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance