Referral Marketing

Why Social Media Referrals Work

What does the Bacon number have to do with social media referrals and referral marketing? More than you might think, we break it down for you. Take a look.

Ever since storming the film industry in the 1980s, actor Kevin Bacon has appeared in over 60 successful films. But of all these stellar movies, he is perhaps best known for a bar game that has caused many a drunken argument between friends—the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

The game has become a widely accepted theory amongst the world’s high-profile intellectuals—that every person in Hollywood is removed from Kevin Bacon by no more than six associative on-screen connections. For example: Kevin Bacon’s first film, Diner, shows bacon (the delicious breakfast item) so Bacon is connected to bacon by one-degree. Get the point?

Now Google has thrown its hat into the mix, seeking to put an end to obnoxious confrontations with its own search tool dubbed the Bacon Number. Simply type the phrase bacon number along with any actor or actresses’ name and the search engine will calculate to what degree that actor is connected to Kevin Bacon. In other news, office productivity has gone on a downward spiral.

But business owners shouldn’t start blocking Google yet, because there’s a lot to pick through and learn from Mr. Bacon’s prolific persona when considering peer-to-peer referrals.

The Bacon Number is actually based on a legitimate theory dubbed the six degrees of separation, which claims that our web of social contacts has become so interconnected that it only takes six people or less to jump from one person to any other person on the planet.

And with the advent of social media our interwoven relationships have become much more visible, meaning that not only do your friends know what you like/do online, but so do all of their friends, and your friends’ friends, ad infinitum.

When looking at this theory from a referral marketing perspective, we can reveal the concept of transitive trust—transitive in that we not only trust our friends, but have an inherent trust across our mutual friends as well.

Transitive trust has been around for quite some time (almost as long as Kevin Bacon), but never before has the concept taken on such a powerful role in making purchasing decisions. The reach of an online referral has jumped exponentially from one friend to potentially thousands of people, many of whom you’ve probably never met. But much like seeing an actor you haven’t heard of connected to Kevin Bacon, you have to assume they’re good by association.

When generating a referral, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not only reaching one person; you’re reaching hundreds of thousands of potential customers through their social networks.

This idea, more than anything, shows just how far a social media referral can go. And based on studies coming from the impacts of customer referrals on social commerce, you’ll be getting high-value leads that are 4 times as likely to purchase than a traditional customer.

So thank you Google, for not only putting an end to decades of contentious Kevin Bacon focused debates (and giving us a fun toy to play around with), but also for turning the spotlight onto an important concept that proves the power of peer-to-peer referrals for any businesses.

So what’s your bacon number?

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