Why You Really Need to Pay Attention to Recommendation Engines


Mona Nomura recently posted an interesting essay on the "Serendipity Algorithm and What It Means to Marketers." It is a recommended read but I think she stumbled on an even larger truth/warning about the future of marketing – especially for small business and nonprofits.

Briefly, as consumers we utilize Amazon/Netflix/Facebook recommendations all of the time. But how many business owners strategically and purposefully produce content/engagement/process that supports this "algorithmic ecology?"

Mona writes:

The gist of the serendipity algorithm is digital intelligence. It is not perfect (yet) but through our repeated behaviors and our friends’ actions, sites and services know what we are looking for. Recommendations and things that are relevant to us is accessible as soon as we log-on or even refresh the page. Nowadays, we should be offended if we have to dig through enormous amounts of noise to find things that interest us.

Look around you, we see it on a daily basis on sites we least expect.

  • Amazon pulls up recommendations based on past item purchases and  browsing behaviors
  • Facebook pulls up content relevant to you by the actions of your friends. If enough people in your graph LIKE or comment on an item, that item floats into your newsfeed, even if you are not friends with the original poster
  • Yelp rises the users you have fanned to ensure you don’t miss what your favorite reviewer said about a particular establishment
  • Twitter pushes Tweets -specifically @replies- into your streams from people who have been RTd

Almost every site and service performs these actions. So how does this apply to our role as marketers?

Mona's response is a call-to-arms for marketers to not be billboards. I completely agree.

However, my critical takeaway from the emerging ubiquitous nature of "serendipity algorithms" and recommendation engines is that businesses – including small biz and nonprofits  – must begin to strategically engage and develop content that supports these tools, or risk being lost and left behind in a sea of digital noise – and yes – "billboard" messages.

The shift here, is that the effectiveness of algorithmic and agent-based recommendation engines is making effective customer and social media engagement not just advantageous, but absolutely necessary.

How we manifest this is a fascinating question for each business, and I'll be exploring some methodologies for getting there in the coming days.

I'd like to thank Mona Nomura for spurring this line of inquiry.

One Reply to “Why You Really Need to Pay Attention to Recommendation Engines”

  1. Much more eloquently stated with organized thoughts than my post — thanks for chiming in. You are absolutely correct. Brand evangelists are musts and it’s baffling to see why brands are scrambling to create them, but do not comprehend the HOW and WHYs which ultimately leads to marketing campaign failures.Thanks again for this post!

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