When your friends become spammers

Spam – Unqualified , Intrusive , Irrelevant, To frequent and normally incorrectly timed. These are some of the identifiers we associate with spam, an all too often topic in the press for the past 5 years.

More and more we are seeing word of mouth playing an important role with social networks such as MySpace connecting like minded communities together, reviews and recommendations being part of most web buying experiences adding value and a genuine non marketing voice which evidently people value.

The question is though, when do these helpful reviews, comments and feedback start becoming spam.

In the Dynamics of Viral Marketing this and the investigation of propagation of recommendations is reviewed. Using a sample size of over 4 million people with over half a million recommendations for products in the popular DVD / Music arena being tracked, it provides insight into the fascinating world of word of mouth.

Within their studies they find recommendation chains do not grow very large ( we have a greater impact with our friends than others within the same community ) highlighting the long tail of products outside the top positions making up significant percentage of sales ( Amazon having between 20 – 40 % of sales falling outside of it’s top 100,000 books ).

Interestingly as more recommendations between two similar individuals the likely hood of these being actioned upon actually decreases, therefore exhibiting the characteristics of Spam.

Some figures from the report –

  • DVD’s reach a recommendation saturation point at 10 incoming referrals , with this figure changing as these two people start exchanging more recommendations the numbers drops to 5.
    This reinforcing the findings of people can become a spammer if they send too many recommendations within the community group.
  • Figures differ for the ticket value and type of item ( fiction books VS technical manuals ) in terms of influence the recommendation has, therefore a person who recommends only a few products in the correct categories will be a respected peer within the community.
  • 100 products amount for only 11.4% of all sales, top 1000 products amount for 27% of total sales through recommendation system.
  • Some products such as fiction books only require one recommendation, further recommendations have no influence and therefore become spam.
  • Providing excessive incentives for people to recommend products can weaken the credibility of community they are trying to strengthen.

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