I’m the new neighbor welcome lady for my neighborhood. Anyone who knows me well finds this hilarious. But whatever, I got handed the job and I do my best.
When I meet new neighbors, I often ask them if they need recommendations for doctors, dentists, daycares, stylists, etc. I don’t offer my recommendations in any official neighborhood association capacity and I definitely don’t do it on the payroll of the places I recommend. I do it simply as a neighbor and mother who uses many of the same services and has been the new kid on the block many, many times. Word of mouth is how the world of information turns.
Generating “buzz” or “virality” on line has given reach and put metrics to what has been happening for millennia. In fact, in his recent book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Author Jonah Berger cites the statistic that only seven percent of word of mouth transmission happens online. SEVEN PERCENT. Berger says that even heavy users who spend upwards of two hours a day stalking the internet spend about sixteen hours not on the internet, but they’re still talking. If you haven’t read Berger’s book, go buy it; you can start here. Until it arrives or downloads to your device, here’s the summary of what it takes to help people start talking about your idea, your product, or your service.
Berger came up with an acrostic to help us remember the steps or “STEPPS” (Hah!) for getting people to talk.
Social Currency: Does sharing the information make them feel helpful? Smart? Like an insider? People like to look good; it makes them feel good so they’ll share if doing so increases others’ view of them. This is probably why I offer my list of contacts to neighbors—I like to be perceived as knowledgeable and helpful…or at least knowledgeable.
Triggers: Information gets shared more often when something about it is triggered by common events. Can you tie your message to the mundane crap we have to do in daily life? If so, your thing will get triggered every time anyone does said mundane crap—like pour coffee, or merge onto an interstate, or sneeze. Triggers don’t have to be glamorous.
Emotion: People remember and share messages more often if there’s an emotional component to them—even negative emotions. As a middle school student, did you ever share something shocking or disgusting? Me too! Now that you’re an adult, try to tap into emotions but make sure the emotion you tap into corresponds with the heart of your message [Note: Disgusting and shocking are awesome, but may or may not sell long-term.]
Public: Speaking of middle school, we’re all still basically trying to be cool and fit in. How can you capture the power of peer pressure in the transmission of the message? Berger shares the example of the “I voted” stickers—it turned a voting; a private activity, into a public behavior and it works! Didn’t you feel a little twinge of pressure to go vote when you saw someone wearing a sticker? I mean, all the cool kids were doing it, so, you know…
Practical Value: [I’ll be honest, I think this point is a sub-set of “Social Currency,” but to stay true to Berger’s presentation, I’ll include it.] If your message or idea or product offers practical value, others will be inclined to share it because it’s useful to people and they will be perceived as helpful (See? Social Currency.)
Stories: Everyone loves a good yarn. Stories create a rhythm and flow to what would otherwise be a static set of facts. Weave your message into a story that people will want to share. Try to avoid “Once upon a time,” and “Happily ever after” but definitely do tap into the conflict, the climax and the resolution.
Have you seen or used any of the above steps (or STEPPS) to harness word of mouth marketing? Share your story (See “Stories” above) now.
And if you missed the first brand blog post on content marketing, go here to catch up.
Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation
Culture geek. Proud Colorado native.