Why Open Colleges, Virgin Mobile are backing a new tool for brand advocacy

Online learning provider and telco deploy Recomazing's recommendation software to amplify brand advocacy

Kevin Lynch, Open Colleges
Kevin Lynch, Open Colleges

Personal recommendations have long been perceived as one of the most persuasive forms of marketing, especially when they are delivered by trusted parties such as friends and family. But despite social media’s ability to connect individuals, it has not proven effective in harnessing recommendations for brands.

Now online learning provider, Open Colleges, is hoping to better tap into the power of trusted recommendations through a partnership with Australian startup, Recomazing.

The Recomazing service encourages users to create recommendations for the services they love. These can be promoted through social media, and remain permanently searchable within the Recomazing platform.

Chief marketing officer at Open Colleges, Kevin Lynch, said Recomazing will provide his company’s 65,000 students with a tool for creating and promoting recommendations for the courses they have enjoyed taking.

“Referrals and customer advocates are the holy grail of marketing,” Lynch said. “Recomazing gives marketers and businesses a great opportunity to amplify and grow more brand advocates.

“A tool like this gives you a good indication of whether you are delivering on your promise to your customers. If you are doing a good job, they are going to tell their friends and family. And that is the most powerful recommendation you are going to get.”

Read more: How to engage in influencer marketing: The controversy and the opportunity

Recomazing’s founder, Marc Cowper, said he came across the idea for the service when he realised there was no persistent platform where people could search for recommendations on a wide range of services from people they trusted, or for brands to recruit and promote recommendations.

“We are all collectively spending $4.6 billion a year in online advertising, yet we all know the most effective form of any information to influence a sale is based on a friend recommendation,” Cowper said. “Social media had put all of our friends in one place, but there was no place where we could find all those friend’s recommendations.”

Cowper said this is especially frustrating for brands that build net promoter scores and customer advocacy but have difficulty in leveraging this goodwill and turning it into revenue.

The problem is further exacerbated through the diminishment of organic reach through social media platforms, which Cowper said has led to brands seeing their own posts reaching as little as 2 per cent of their audience.

Recomazing is currently in beta and will launch to the public on 27 July. One of the company’s main activities has been to sign up partners that will recruit consumers to leave recommendations within the service, including groups such as Open Colleges and online fundraising service, gofundraise.

“They sit above 900 of Australia’s leading charities,” Cowper said. “We provide a free profile for those partners to enable them to get their customers recommending their charitable events to increase their fundraising activities.

“Our entire focus over the last 12 months is to make sure we have scale. We have media partnerships in place driving literally millions of impressions to our site from day one.”

Another company to sign with Recomazing is Virgin Mobile. Chief marketing officer, Nicole Bardsley, said her company has a long history of making mobile better for our customers and through product innovation.

“Recomazing allows brands like us, who are investing in the customer experience, to promote a differentiated customer experience to bring on board more customers who just aren’t satisfied with the average telco experience,” Bardsley said.

Virgin’s Mobile’s use of social advocacy is a natural flow-on from decreasing consumer trust in advertising.

“Even for a brand like Virgin Mobile, which has a rich heritage as a champion for the people and the highest NPS of the big four, we still face the scepticism that comes as part and parcel of the telecommunications industry, which for a long time hasn’t put customers at the heart of their business,” Bardsley said.

“In addition to the support in terms of marketing activities, more and more brands are seeing the value of advocacy in a socially-connected world. During times of crisis or criticism, your brand advocates are one of your greatest asset and we’ve seen our advocates defend our brand across social media, and you really can’t underestimate the value of that kind of advocacy.”

Cowper said the use of recommendations from friends eliminates false recommendations. If a consumer is seeking a recommendation for a service that has not been used by a friend, they can be presented with views from other people in their area, along with most popular recommended services.

Recomazing customers will be able to quickly see who their advocates are and their level of influence, along with the number of referrals they are driving and people who are seeing those recommendations, as well as the other brands that their advocates are promoting. Cowper said this last insight will prove valuable for brands that are looking to forge partnerships.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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