According to Nielsen, 92 percent of all consumers believe that word-of-mouth recommendations are the “leading reason they buy a product or service.” In addition, a “7 percent increase in word-of-mouth recommendations unlocks 1 percent additional company growth.” And, yet, “64 percent of social media marketers worldwide [report] that it was a challenge to get people to talk about their goods and services on social media in a way that matched their desired brand attributes.”
Therein lies the rub that author Paul Rand, founder, president, and CEO of Chicago-based Zócalo Group, tackles in his new book, Highly Recommended, a guide for executives, managers, and, in fact, employees at every level of an organization who want to garner positive recommendations for their companies.
Packed with anecdotes, case studies, data, examples, and statistics, Highly Recommended explains how organizations of every ilk can harness the power of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to attract and retain customers who, in essence, become volunteer evangelists. FritoLay, L.L. Bean, Nike, Red Robin, Starbucks, and Whole Foods are just a few of the companies featured in the book as Rand explains how these—and other—organizations have managed to tap into social media in clever and compelling ways, creating relationships with customers that build loyalty.
Written in an accessible, conversational style, Highly Recommended is an easily digestible guide for organizations seeking inspiration when it comes to making the most of social media and ensuring that it is they—rather than their customers—who are controlling any and all messaging about the company. Rand is an excellent storyteller, persuasive in his argument that word-of-mouth marketing is one of if not the leading tool today’s companies can use to build their brands and their reputations. (Indeed, the book is focused primarily on brands and reputations rather than the bottom line, which may frustrate those readers who are looking to not only manage the efficacy of their social media campaigns but to measure them as well.)
Much of the information contained in this short guide seems like good common sense. Many of the approaches Rand suggests also seem to be credible, workable techniques. Little information contained in these pages seems revelatory, however, and few of the techniques Rand suggests seem particularly innovative. In fact, neither buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, loyalty marketing, one-to-one marketing, nor customer relationship marketing is a new concept; most have been part of the business vernacular for years. Even social media is far from nascent technology, despite the fact that venues such as Facebook aren’t even a decade old.
That said, the oddly dated feel of the book doesn’t necessarily detract from Rand’s message that companies need to control their messages at every turn, whether through traditional advertising, websites, blogs, or other social media platforms. Even for those readers who have been practicing CRM for the past decade will find the insight in Highly Recommended interesting if not entirely actionable.
Indeed, much of the advice in these pages is implicit. The first few chapters of Highly Recommended serve as something of a very long introduction, setting the stage for the importance of using social media to drive effective word-of-mouth marketing. Later, however, and especially in Chapters 10–12, Rand offers more concrete, prescriptive guidance that readers can put into action. It is here where readers who are looking for actionable, how-to advice will find practical information they can implement in their offices.
Organizations mired in old-school, traditional forms of marketing or companies which have yet to make the most of social media will find much to inspire them in Highly Recommended. Rand’s discussion about the evolution from traditional customer service to interactive, proactive “social care” offers perhaps the freshest insight, insight that should be of interest to individuals at all levels of an organization of any size. Those looking to move beyond amassing countless Facebook fans or Twitter followers to actually engaging with them and building relationships with them also will find helpful inspiration and sage advice in these pages.
Although in some ways the ground covered in Highly Recommended may seem well trodden, much of the insight and advice is timeless. Rand’s enthusiasm for the subject and his common-sense approach make for easy reading. It’s questionable whether readers will find the advice imminently actionable, but the information Rand offers is at least thought-provoking, making this book recommended if not highly recommended.
September 2013, McGraw-Hill Education/MH Professional
$25, hardcover, 230 pages
—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen*
*in the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Christiansen spent part of her career as an editor with McGraw-Hill, and she knows some of the individuals involved in the production of this title, although not the author.