Do friends and business mix? Is the old saying that you should never do business with friends no longer relevant now that workplace and social space overlap so much with clients, colleagues and suppliers ‘liking’ one another and ‘sharing’ experiences every working day?
Dell announced today that they were introducing ‘micro affiliate marketing’ to their 200,000 customer base, encouraging them to ‘share and earn’. It’s an organised new manifestation of word of mouth marketing but will the number of our ‘friends’ become the size of our potential market reach? I’m interested to see how many people will take the chance to earn a minimum of £5 if their friends spend £70 or more with Dell, and to see how many people will buy from their friends, happy to see them earn a few quid in exchange for choosing a product they recommend.
Hugely successful brands Jamie Oliver and Liz Earle continue to harness the power of word of mouth and affiliate marketing, in a digitally enhanced routine tried and tested by the ladies of Tupperware and Avon, at their peak when the eponymous business leaders were growing up. For years, companies have encouraged their customers to pass on their friends’ contact details, in exchange for a discount or incentive. But what Dell is doing with Birmingham-based Digital Animal hopes to reach beyond our friends and our friends’ friends to our ‘friends’, giving them the potential to spread the word like never before: ‘fandistribution’ the Dell-boys call it.
Now more than ever, we want to know that referral sites are independent and recommendations authentic and so far self-policing crowds have served the web well, transforming the ways in which we find and make purchasing decisions about products and services. In future, when friends make a recommendation in order that they can ‘share and earn’, will we consider it a way to buy and help a friend boost their earnings, or will we ‘unlike’ them in case they’re only getting in touch because they want something?