Getting to the Bottom of Online Recommendations

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By Michelle Bruno

People trust online recommendations, especially when they come from within their own social networks. Getting people to endorse a product, service, or event online isn’t all that hard if you know what motivates endorsers in the first place.

People spread the word for all kinds of reasons.

There’s plenty of research on why people make online recommendations. Whether the recommendations are for consumer products or business services apparently doesn’t matter. A variety of studies show that the motivations are the same:

  • People want to be accepted and recognized by their peers.
  • Online “recommenders” want to differentiate themselves.
  • Many individuals want to be seen as thought leaders.
  • Some people simply like to share and help, especially online.
  • Incentives exist for the recommendations.
  • Sharing is simply an accepted behavior for social networks.

Attendees like to make recommendations too.

Attendees are similarly motivated when they recommend that others in their social networks attend the same trade shows that they attend:

  • Participants want to show they “belong” by recommending events that align with the interests of their network.
  • Attendees may want to stand out by “bragging” about events that they will be attending.
  • Some individuals want to demonstrate their leadership by calling major events to others’ attention.
  • People simply want to help others in their networks by recommending relevant events to them.
  • Attendees want to network at the event with others from whom they will benefit—colleagues or potential customers.
  • Sharing valuable information online is encouraged business behavior.

Let your network use its networks.

Trade show marketers can take advantage of the fact that not only are online recommendations (social registrations, for example) effective, but many attendees are highly motivated to make them. Here are some suggestions:

Get your audience members accustomed to the idea of sharing event information with their social networks by making sure you place “share” buttons on emails, blog posts, and other content that you distribute. Doing so, helps “prime the pump” for social registration.

Help your registrants identify the best people with which to share information about the event. Let them know who in their networks have similar interests or appropriate job titles. Doing so helps them exert influence over the individuals who they are interested in impressing, helping, or deriving benefit from.

Give your attendees choices for sharing and recommending that reflect the degree to which they want to engage with others about your event. A status post on Facebook is more or less an announcement, whereas an invitation via social media or email is more of an endorsement.

Provide email invitation templates containing language that appeals to the sender as much as the recipient. Verbiage that alludes to the senders’ motivations for recognition, desire to be seen as a leader, or need to stand out can help ensure that the emails will be sent.

Identify social media Superusers—attendees with large followings who are already highly engaged in social networks—and ask them to use the social registration tools you have in place for your event. Keep them updated about registrations coming in from their networks so they can obtain the recognition or gratification they seek.

Reinforce the importance of live events as extensions of social networks. By using social registration tools, attendees can draw their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter colleagues out into the real world and build on the relationships they’ve already started online.

Let your attendees help. You know they want to.

Knowing that online recommendations are valuable and that there are people who, for many reasons, are predisposed to make them is valuable information for trade show marketers. With the right set of social registration tools used in the right way, you can leverage this form of electronic word-of-mouth marketing to grow your registrations and your attendance. 

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