The One-Percenters Of Recommendations

Save money. Eat better. Become more popular. All this is possible for the lucky “haves” who distance themselves from the “have-nots” by joining a class of people shaping their lives and the lives of others through digitally shared recommendations.

There’s no membership card or initiation test. It’s totally opt-in. But the tangible benefits can add up, and the intangible benefits can be far more substantial.

Consider these three examples:

1) It’s Small Business Saturday, the November commercial holiday created by American Express. The week before, you visit Klout and notice a new Perk: receive a $25 AmEx gift card to spend that Saturday, or anytime in the next 10 years. You receive it and put it in your wallet in case an opportunity arises. Out in Dallas for Thanksgiving weekend, you go shopping on Saturday and visit Society Bakery, thanks to a recommendation from a friend who knows you love cupcakes. When checking in on Foursquare, there’s an AmEx offer to get a $25 credit on a purchase of at least $25, so you link your AmEx card and get a free box of baked goods. You later wind up sharing tips about the bakery and photos of your desserts on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Foodspotting, and some new apps like Oink, Fondu, and Stamped. And if the day wasn’t going well enough, you go out to dinner at Wild Salsa, where you already had reservations, and notice the $25 promotion there too. Combining that with the Klout card, you saved $75 that day -- and in this case, on purchases you were going to make anyway.

2) You’re in the market for a new digital camera. You try asking friends on the social shopping site Buyosphere. Within hours, three friends and followers chime in, including one mentioning how much he loves the Canon SX40 HS with the 35x optical zoom for $400, which looks like it’s the best value of the models suggested. Tempted to pick up the camera yourself and test it out, you try the ShopSavvy app to find dealers near you, but you may just take advantage of the free and fast shipping through Amazon Prime.

3) Out with clients in Portland, Ore. you use some of your favorite recommendation apps not just to pick a great restaurant, but to pinpoint the best dessert there. The client loves it so much that you’re asked to pick a brunch spot to meet when you’re all reunited in Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW). You meet up there, have a great time -- and 12 hours later, you see your clients check into the same spot again on Foursquare. Your reputation is cemented as a go-to resource.

All of these examples, based on personal experiences, point to four rules for these One-Percenters:

1) By knowing where to turn for recommendations, you have access to a layer of information that not everyone else has.

2) The more you share, the more that’s shared your way. Karma is alive and well. Whether your interest is food, fashion, electronics, cars, travel, film, or anything else, people will seek you out to be the beneficiary of their own picks, further improving your options.

3) By sharing, new technologies can increasingly personalize experiences for you, triggering another virtuous circle.

4) Tangible rewards are increasingly available, but the most fulfilling reward is increased social currency.

There are three main caveats for this class of One-Percenters:

First, even with the democratization of media today, there is a limited subset of people interested in curating experiences for others and regularly using these technologies to engage in frequent discovery. This has the clear semblance of a leisure class, with bon vivants in it for the prestige and enrichment rather than more straightforward, goal-oriented behaviors of locating businesses and saving money.

Second, there have always been town squares, bazaars, and water coolers with their resident mavens engaging in this kind of recommendation exchange. Similarly, there are plenty of parents pushing swings at the playground who will always be infinitely more influential than what any digital reputation scores indicate. The analog world still matters, but it’s far more static and less serendipitous. When the experience migrates digitally, then it’s possible to connect with more unexpected sources and share with people far beyond one’s immediate environs.

Third, the “One-Percenter” term is one of convenience rather than a hard statistic. But take Foursquare, with its 10 million users, as an example. If you narrow it down to people in the United States who use the service on a weekly basis both to peruse recommendations and leave their own tips, it’s a sliver of a slice of a pie.

Speaking of which, have you tried the whiskey buttermilk pie at Hill Country Chicken? It’s fantastic. Just check out my tips and photos and reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Citysearch, UrbanSpoon, Fondu, Oink, Stamped, and… wait, come back. I’m just getting started! OK, maybe the ninety-nine percent are on to something too.

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1 comment about "The One-Percenters Of Recommendations".
  1. Jeremy Shatan from Hope & Heroes Children's Cancer Fund , November 29, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
    Thanks for making me feel a little less like a voice in the wilderness with all of my. If the digital snail trail I leave behind me about music, food, movies, etc. helps someone make a better decision or find something they love, it makes me very happy!