Villing & Company

Will Consumers Respond to User-Generated Advertising?

Are you more likely to see a movie in the theater because you saw the trailer or because a friend recommended it? Are you more likely to try a restaurant because of a radio commercial or based on your sister's suggestion? If you're like most people, you make a lot of your purchasing decisions based on the recommendations of your friends and family. In fact, according to a study done by NOP World (now GfK NOP), 93% of customers identify word of mouth as the best, most reliable and trustworthy source of information on products and services.

In the past 5 years, we've seen traditional content gradually replaced by user-generated content. Instead of reading the writing of professionals, people are spending more time reading the random musings of their social network. Bloggers are replacing mainstream news-writers; podcasts are supplementing, if not replacing, traditional radio shows; Wikipedia has replaced the traditional encyclopedia. Word-of-mouth marketing was important in the past, but it's become even more critical in the modern marketing ecosystem.

As they try to enter as many media channels as possible, many marketers are sacrificing message quality for message quantity. Many more don't have the time needed to generate an organic word-of-mouth buzz.

Several former Google employees are trying to solve these problems. Their goal is to connect advertisers with social media influencers in a way that is both transparent and beneficial to everyone. The site, MyLikes.com, allows advertisers to pay for content creators to recommend products in a blog post, YouTube video, Twitter feed, etc. Advertisers get the benefit of tapping into word-of-mouth advertising in a way that would be very difficult without this tool. Social media influencers are able to make a little extra money by recommending products that they actually like and use. And, in theory, the audience also benefits from these personalized recommendations, since the ads should be more relevant to them.

But that's the question, isn't it?

Are we ready for a world where our friends are being paid to recommend us products? A world where we must question the motives behind every product endorsement from our friends and family?

What if this really takes off? Will our positive attitude toward word-of-mouth start to deteriorate? Perhaps the reason that word-of-mouth advertising is so trusted is the VERY THING that this type of user-generated advertising threatens: our perception that it is unbiased. Do we really want to go down this road where our recommendations can be sold to the highest bidder?

With enough transparency, this idea has a lot of potential for marketers and influencers alike. And the MyLikes team seems to be very aware of the importance of trust and transparency. It's certainly a tool that we should keep on our radar.

Perhaps, as a society, we will be able to seamlessly blend the social with the commercial. I just hope we don't sacrifice too much to get there.

Filed Under: advertising

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