Ok, I admit it, I love lists. Having grown up in magazine culture, it's simply the way I process things. I categorize things, I rank things and get excited about things through nicely compartmentalized lists.
I'm likely no different than other people given the way traditional and social media market themselves:
"People's 50 Beautiful People", "Dave Letterman's Top Ten", Stephen Covey's "7 Habits", 43 Things, The MTV 10 Spot, The Five Things To Know About Me Meme, the Top 40 Under 40 even "The 10 Commandments" had an early start on this list thing.
So you wanted to know why people word of mouth - Here is our ultimate list of 36 reasons why People Word of Mouth. If we change our minds on this again - we'll treat it like a sock drawer - one comes on the list, one drops off the list.
Why 36? In French, "36" is used as a cliche for "a lot" and to be sure, there are a lot of reasons why people word of mouth and they usually don't start with "free" and end with "stuff".
Part I of III - It's Because of Them
Here are the ten reasons why people evangelize and buzz because of "who they are"
#1 - Passionate About The Topic
- perhaps more than any other reason, word of mouth participants have to be interested in the subject, word of mouth advocacy is fueled by passion and interest
- a great word of mouth influencer can be amazingly potent on cars and be ambivalent about clothes, influential on entertainment matters but weak on tech stuff
- although word of mothers can have general influential traits, the price of admission to spreading word of mouth is "do they care enough" to spend their finite energy and enthusiasm on the conversation at hand
#2 - Logo Lovers
- we live in a world of cult brands - many have replaced long-standing institutions (church, politics, citizenship) as touchstones we believe in, we take pride in and feel members of
- cult brands exist, big and small, and people will rally around them - think Apple, think Harley Davidson, think Google, think Guinness - we wear them like lifestyle badge and are more than willing to evangelize to others to also join our chosen "brand church"
#3 - Knowledge Seekers
- Gladwell popularized the term "maven" in his book the Tipping Point (Hebrew for "understanding), - as a base instinct, we talk to others to elevate our knowledge of world and to share that with others or to guard it as valuable and only disclose it to our network of trusted peers
- knowledge seekers find this word of mouth investment in this effort socially, intellectually and sometimes economically valuable
#4 - Social Brokers
- whether human or primate, we socially groom each other with word of mouth
- by sharing buzz, we are exchanging a currency of social value to our circle of friends to hopefully belong, fit in and climb Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and perhaps even become self-actualized
- as word of mouth is in most cases free, the exchange in value in social broking is either building a bank account of trust and friendship or bartering one type of information for another
#5 - The Altruistic
- the only way humans survived some pretty dangerous predators in the past is because we worked together and shared information that had a mutual benefit, we gathered around the fire and talked about eating this berry/not that berry, using this spear not that one to fend off tigers ...etc.
- fast forward to today, second-time moms share info with first time moms about nursing, experts share info with novices about photography, mentors share word of mouth about the corporate world with proteges
- although the more we trust someone (friends, family, colleagues) the more we help, some especially talented humans have the capability and affinity of helping strangers and acquaintances that regardless of value - in social network vernacular - these are the weak ties and help word of mouth leapfrog across groups and spread quickly (now further accelerated by the Internet)
#6 - The Involved/Committed
- we "word of mouth" as a behavioral conditioned instinct
- if we feel affiliated to some organization, cause or product, we are more than likely to go out of our way and say positive things about it
- the more we get involved or committed, the more this becomes a rooted behaviour as opposed to something we even need to think about (think about the act of wearing branded clothes)
#7 - Feedback Seekers
- for most of us, the world can be a scary place - we word of mouth to seek support and validation for our own views and eliminate the nagging insecurity of not fitting in or being wrong (I like Microsoft Vista but should I upgrade or install it one new computer?)
- for some of us, we use feedback to shape our ideas and make better ones, in Geoffrey Moore's book Crossing the Chasm, he talks about these people as gatekeepers - well-connected, earlier adopting people who shape the ideas of trendsetters and make them more palatable to the mainstream
#8 - The Ego-Driven
- disproportionately more of a male trait - we lavish word of mouth wisdom onto others to show how informed, connected or ahead of the pack we are
- although we may provide word of mouth free, the currency at play here is that the recipient will feel envy, reverence, incredulity, inferiority or affection based on the musings of the word of mouth transmitter
- with collaborative marketing efforts on the rise, this ego-driven impulse leads to providing word of mouth in exchange for the "15 minutes of fame" accorded by commercial efforts (who wouldn't want to tell their brand story to get their son/daughter on a box of Wheaties)
#9 - Reciprocity Dealers
- at some point, word of mouth needs to be a fair exchange and taps into the "I pat you back, you pat mine" principle
- beyond visible badging, there is a reason why you get a poppy for Remembrance Day donations, a lily for Easter Seals - we feel responsible for giving back in the form of word of mouth advocacy even for the smallest of incentives
- with Internet publishing, giving away free chapters/books online has caused a rush of people to buy the book in-store - how much of that is needing the portable form of the word vs. feeling obligated to the author to put money in his wallet for the initial free overture?
#10 - Self-Expressionists
- word of mouth is an art form and the theory of The Influencer is that some are better at word of mouth than others
- some of us average 184 word of mouth conversations each and every week - it's the ultimate and most prolific art in the world -- whereas you might be able to write two books a year, a painting every week, a building every couple of years - word of mouth conversation is the dabbler's art
- by participating in word of mouth, it transmits who we are, what we believe, how we feel and provides cues to others of stuff we share in common or viewpoints we'd like to challenge
#11-25 - It's Because of What You Provide (as a Organization/Business/Brand/Marketer)
In the Hole
#26-36 - It's Because of Who You Are (as a Company/Product/Brand/Service/Idea)