Facebook Friends (Businesses’ Best Friends, too!)

This week, I found myself thinking about my Amazon book purchases after reading Socialnomics: “Death of a Social Schizophrenia.”  Quite a bit of interesting material caught my attention, and for this entry, I ended up thinking about social media and its selling power.

Qualman notes that Amazon introduced us to the selling technique of “People who purchased this book also purchased these other ones.”   I immediately thought about the times I have skimmed the titles of books brought to my attention in this way after having bought another title.  Social media has really transformed the way we receive referrals.  Therefore, I was more and more interested as I read Qualman’s description of “Referral Programs on Steroids” and how this holds true in my own experience.

The Amazon model provides to users a list of titles they might want to buy based on other people with similar tastes. Yet as users, we don’t know these other people.  In fact, “they are an aggregation of thousands of others who happen to have the same purchasing patterns” (131).   They are not our friends or family or close acquaintances; only we might share similar buying habits, and that is the connection.  It’s a marketing technique.

Qualman describes social media as taking this referral program “one giant step further” because while social media will continue to offer what the universe enjoys, it allows us a much deeper and closer referral program: our specific network.  Within our networks, we have circles of trust.   Qualman gives to us the example of a friend who normally reads romance who then refers a sci-fi book.  Because we know and trust this friend, we may be much more likely to want to read this book after we read her post proclaiming her love of the book.  We buy the book; we have just been sucked into the power of social media to make a purchase because of the referral by a known and trusted source.  I have done this before.  Have you?ED Book

However, I have ignored countless recommendations from Amazon.  I am little affected by the note that others (like me) have also purchased these others items.  It rarely influences me to make another purchase.  I might look (window shop), but have never bought in this fashion.  If Amazon found a way to connect my friends and family to my purchases, I might be more easily persuaded to buy.  Social media definitely “beefed up” the referral program.   The implications of this power for companies and businesses are great, and as Qualman writes, “Well, the referral floodgates have been opened my friends” (132).

One of my most recent purchases influenced by social media did indeed come from my Facebook page.  Emily Dickinson is a “friend” of mine, and as a result, I was referred to this collection of her letters.  I bought it within a week of reading the post.  Thus, social media’s referral program within my network worked!  Sale complete on my behalf.

I happened to find another book on Amazon while searching for books on the power of friends: Friendfluence.   Of course, my eyes then wandered down to the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section, and I did in fact look at the titles to see the buying patterns of those who bought Friendfluence.    The book actually does reference the power of social networks.  It might be an interesting read.

Posted on October 6, 2013, in Literacy, Social Media, Society. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Thanks for your post. Great ideas! I am guilty of falling for the trap that Amazon invented. As an impulsive person in general, I enjoy online shopping so if I see a recommended item, there is a 50% chance I will “add” that item to my “shopping cart” and purchase it. I also fall for online sales when I get coupons or promo codes sent to my email. Your point about social media changing the way we make decisions is completely accurate! Brilliant!

  2. Thanks! Yes, email is another great example of businesses really opening up the floodgates, too. There is not one store I go into these days that does not ask me for my email. I think it was Party City today, in fact, that added me to its server list. I suspect I will receive emails pretty quickly, and I will be further sucked into the power of marketing communications. It really is quite different from the days of merely clipping coupons from the Sunday flyers.

  3. evelynmartens13

    Thanks for the Emily Disckinson ref. I had fun roaming around there.

    You should take your idea (If Amazon found a way to connect my friends and family to my purchases, I might be more easily persuaded to buy), figure out how to do it, market it to Amazon, and take a big cut of the profits. That would be a great application of our readings! (I’ll bet someone is working on it as we speak.) “The Referral Program on Steroids” was one of the most enlightening aspects of the Qualman reading for me this week, too.

    I find most of what Amazon refers to me is usually very on-target, particularly as it relates to my professional life or books I might buy for my office. I’m not sure if that’s as true for my leisure reading, though, so I’ll have to mull it over.

    • Hi, Evelyn,
      You’re right! It would be nice to market that idea, but someone might be working on it as we speak (like you say!) I do find it to be true that our friends and family are a great part of our “sphere of influence” in life, so when it comes to marketing, it really is quite a powerful strategy.

      Yes, the Amazon references do catch my attention often, too, when I buy for work or school,and sometimes my pleasure reading choices and subsequent referrals to other books do attract my attention, but I am pretty selective when buying books these days because I have to limit what I buy. I just have more books than I can keep up with these days….but, oh, how I love a good book (for both professional development and leisure) 🙂


  4. I am simultaneously psyched and terrified at the thought of Amazon being able to tell us what our social network is buying. While it would sometimes be fun to know what my friends are reading, I may not want to know that they are currently reading “50 Shades of Grey” for example.

    Also, thinking about how much stuff I buy on Amazon now (not just books), I wonder whether if this sort of technology was implemented it would apply to all purchases. I recently purchased a Clorox Toilet Wand on Amazon because I didn’t feel like going out shopping for it, but I think it might just be annoying for my friends to see that. On the other hand, if they were looking for an easy way to clean their toilet, it might be useful for them. 🙂

    • LOL, good point! What if we buy stuff that we may not really want people to know we bought?

      Christin, when you pitch this to Amazon, make sure they include an option where it asks first if it’s okay to share what you bought with your social network!

      • LOL! I am enjoying very much this thought of pitching this idea, but letting them know we may not want the world to know we just bought a Toilet Wand unless they are our closest family and friends because they may be annoyed or just not interested or maybe I just don’t want to share that with the world online. Too funny!

        It does make me think about how I refer people to books, items, and other purchases I make when I do so in person versus via online or social media.

        Just who exactly would I run and tell that I bought that toilet wand? Probably someone who told me in conversation that he or she was in need of a good toilet bowl cleaning item….;)

  5. I really liked your post, it really made me think about how I take (or don’t take) recommendations in my online purchases. I would say that I am with you concerning Amazon’s method of giving recommendations based on what others bought. I will often look through the recommendations, but rarely, if ever, buy something because of that. I find that often those recommendations don’t actually relate well to my actual preferences. However, I would also not necessarily take recommendations from a friend through social media. I am more likely to take the recommendation from a friend than from a bunch of random strangers, though. So Qualman was right on that point, at least for me.

    • Yes, I do think our friends and family will be the ones we tend to listen to….when Amazon selects items for me based on a recent purchase, I can’t help looking at them, but at some point, I think, “No, thank you.” How does Amazon really know what I like or need? It reminds me of an episode of Sex and the City I saw a long time ago. On character, Charlotte, ordered a self-help book after her divorce. Then she got all kinds of ads for other books, and she was not happy because in the end, she decided she was not that person who needed these “titles”. She threw the original book purchase out the window.

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