I wanted to follow up on last week's post about the power of the friend recommendation. I'm convinced that this needs more investigation.
It reminded me to take another look at Goodreads. I signed up for this site a few weeks ago when I was prompted by a Facebook invitation from a friend. Interestingly enough, my husband had verbally encouraged me to join several months earlier, but it took that live prompt via Facebook from another friend before I finally got round to checking it out. That says something itself about how influential an online peer recommendation is: I didn't take the advice verbally given by my best friend, but I did take the offer when it was made simple for me by taking me straight from invitation link to online registration.
Once that initial hurdle is dealt with, what about registration itself? Goodreads uses the same authentication that a lot of sites now use to make this as easy as possible: Facebook Connect. This is doubly clever. For one, it again makes the whole process less burdensome as I only have to confirm my details, rather than enter them all in from scratch. And (even smarter) Goodreads now gets something much more valuable in return for my registration: an easy brand advocate. With no effort on my part, Goodreads prompts me to tell all my Facebook friends, and invite them to join too.
On the whole, the interface for registration is (probably on purpose) confusing. I wouldn't have actually invited everybody I'm connected to on Facebook had I understood what it was I was being prompted to do, but I was being too lazy to interrogate the interface so just kept clicking to get through the process quickly. However having already spammed all my Facebook contacts, here's an interesting little social experiment at work, as my theory (that you follow up on recommendations from your friends) gets tested as I can then see who goes on to register in turn for a Goodreads account. Several do. Several also display that same idiocy which I had and go on to spam their entire Facebook friends list. And so this goes on and on...
If it's so easy to make a brand advocate, why shouldn't more online businesses make use of this to promote their goods and services? I did nothing to become an advocate for Goodreads except click on a link (which I didn't even read). I'm not saying that such behaviour is actually a healthy or long-term conversion to brand advocacy, but oftentimes it's that initial contact that is the hardest to make. Getting people to stick around is definitely a challenge too (and I'll come back to that point more in future posts), and good functionality, good design, good content and good user journeys is all crucial.
For now, I'm still playing around with Goodreads: it doesn't do much for me, but I'm interested to see that several of the friends I "recommended" it to are using it: in fact two have just told me today that they are using it and finding it valuable. So that in turn has prompted me to go back and give it another look. Oh, look! There's that friend recommendation working all over again :)