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Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, December 08, 2004 5:43 PM
Who Can you Trust?
Anita Sharpe on Business

If you're like most people, you listen when a friend recommends a good book, movie, restaurant. . .or favorite chicken sausage?

But what if you find out that recommendation was part of a company's marketing campaign to build buzz around its product? The New York Times had a fascinating story this past Sunday about BzzAgent in Boston -- a marketing firm that recruits well-connected, well-respected 'influencers' to talk up stuff created by BzzAgent clients.

The most fascinating piece of the story is that these recruits sign on for no money; while they can redeem hot products for their efforts, many never bother. They're also free to trash products they don't like. So when you factor in all those components -- does the tactic gain the same credibility as a pure 'hey-you-gotta-try-this' recommendation from a friend?


jon - 3/24/2005 8:27:39 PM
Well thank you meta search engines
Jason - 12/29/2004 8:36:54 PM
I don't see a difference between recruiting these 'influencers' as opposed to recruiting a film or sports star to promote one's product or service. Though i have to admit that the the former is on a more personal level.
Ian Bryan - 12/11/2004 6:27:33 PM
I am seeing the comments, but I can not help but balance this thing out. Anybody who has ever read Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Tipping Point' can gather the value of tapping into 'Connectors.' If your best buddy or respected colleague can be bought... and then sell you on something that they might not ordinarily talk up... then I say hats off to the guy/girl and to the firm that was savvy enough to identify him/her as a connector. Why not? Who is being harmed here?
martin - 12/10/2004 11:40:58 PM
Whom can you trust? The government and now the good folks at BzzAgents!
C. Maoxian - 12/10/2004 5:01:35 PM
Whom can you trust....
martin - 12/10/2004 9:00:20 AM
I'm somewhat put off by the story. Granted, it's a smart way to drive sales but it smacks of fraud. Gladwell's Tipping Point describes these people (those that share info willingly) as Mavens. Or, people who not only have information but believe it is part of their reason to be to share it. BzzAgents are doing a very good job at being effective while casting doubt on the credibility of the role of a Maven. In effect, they're turning those folks into little more than carnival barkers.

Oh, the folks who participate in the rouse may want to take a harder look in the mirror as well.
Eric Rice - 12/9/2004 7:35:20 PM
Did you notice one of the captions under the photo in the article? '...talks up only products she likes...'

Bingo. Ask any Mac user. They (and I'm included in that) will extoll the virtues of Apple all day long, for free. Hell, that's what people did to me with Skype. And... it worked.
TomSawyer - 12/8/2004 10:17:30 PM
It's always a good idea to take any product review with a grain of salt. Some of my co-workers are so insecure they'd never admit if they've made a bad purchase. Then there are those who will swear whatever brand/model of whatever they own is the absolute zenith or the greatest combination of price and features since free money.
Steve S - 12/8/2004 8:32:56 PM
If you know the person, you can start with accepting the recommendation on the face of it. Otherwise trust and creditability needs to be earned and that will only happen over time. The tactic seems to be more creditable than a purely paid advertisement. Especially since the Bzzagents are doing it because they want to.


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