As I've mentioned to many people over the years, even if you're not steeped in this world as I am, there are 3 essential books on the subject of word of mouth everybody should have on their bookshelves.
From a broad perspective, Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" was especially formative for me in how I saw the business world and marketing work at a time when I was just starting out my entrepreneurial life with Agent Wildfire. It is a sociological treat and he gets brownie points for being Canadian.
From a "meat and potatoes" standpoint, Gaspedal's and WOMMA's founder Andy Sernovitz provides a handy reference guide "Word of Mouth Marketing" on how to do word of mouth well and avoid the executional potholes people run into.
The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited is a sequel to his book from his 2000 writeup "The Anatomy of Buzz". 9 years later, the content is still as prescient as it was back then with many new examples and two-thirds new content. His chapter 24 "Buzz Workshop" is worth the price of the book alone filled with smart and savvy considerations , plus his 10 principles in chapter 9 and 6 characteristics of "hubs" and why we talk is potent stuff. Disclosure: I feel almost guilty given my love of Emanuel's content and the fact I received the book for FREE as part of Emanuel's personal outreach of various WOM VIPs.
Here are the outtakes from our hour on the phone together:
Buzz Canuck (Sean Moffitt): Emanuel, welcome from your tour across the country, congrats on the new book - 9 years is a long time between book editions particularly one that deals with the fast-changing world of buzz, what's changed and why the new edition?
Emanuel Rosen: Thank you Sean. I agree 9 years is quite a long time. I find one of the biggest changes is that I don't have to convince a lot of people why this topic is important anymore but more the need is to convey how these strategies and tools are being used. From my perspective, the top 3 things that have changed since my first edition (and let's remember, my first draft was in 1993!):
- most important, the availability of research simply didn't exist back in the late 90s on how and why buzz worked - we have a tonne of hard data to lean on now
- there are more case studies and practitioners and many great examples of buzz building - they are littered throughout this new edition
- it may be obvious but the technology has changed - Facebook, blogs, video and picture-based social sharing has transformed the landscape of buzz, although I would go onto mention, the majority of word of mouth (WOM) is still offline and a lot of the basic principles remain the same but the tools have obviously changed
BC: "Social media" has been the common language used in recent years to describe word of mouth and buzz building, has the world of buzz and WOM been eclipsed in popularity by the tools used to build it?
ER: Social media deserves its place in the spotlight. It is one of the ways to garner attention in this networked world. Very powerful. It's also new and as mentioned in my book - "new" gives people something to talk about. Not to minimize it but I believe social media is part of word of mouth/buzz marketing not the other way around. I think you have seen and will continue to see "word of mouth" as a term and concept have staying power and social media will subside. People have quickly learned how to deal with the tools of social media - in time, the idea of using social media will be so common, obvious and natural, it will become a component of everything we do and the term may fade over time. BC: You've seen the debate on whether Influencers are important, Duncan Watts has produced a lot new research that suggests The Tipping Point and the Law of the Few is dead? where do you chime in?
ER: Duncan Watts ends up showing up in my book. I don't think the idea of influencers and passionate everyday people spreading buzz exist as opposite or different arguments. I'm not too sure if Watts was arguing it either. Watts mentioned that everyday people are involved in creating word of mouth and there are some people that are more influential than others, and I agree. The concern applying Watts research to marketing is applying value to what he calls the global cascade vs. building many little local cascades. I think many marketers should find value in these small cascades vs. the large yet infrequent viral effects. Also, it's a simple economic argument - is their more value in recruiting and tapping influencers weighed against the cost of finding them. In the examples of Powerbar, Purpose Driven Life and Tremor - the effects of using infleuncer hubs made sense, in other company examples, buzz spread without the use of influencer hubs. BC: Measurement seems to be a big topic nowadays, does word of mouth work and can it realistically be measured?
ER: I'm amazed at the tools at play to measure buzz today. I deal with the idea of measurement in chapter 5 of the book but there are 4 chapter's of WOMMA's guide dedicated to it with an number of very specific examples on buzz that was effectively measured and that showed proactive word of mouth success. Buzz certainly doesn't suffer from lack of measurement and I would argue has just as much if not more rigour than its much larger cousin - advertising.
BC- I've always loved your 6 characteristics of network hubs - active, connected, travel a lot, info curious, vocal and exposed to interests, there recalled..by memory, I have also added to your list over time with two others "passion for the category" and "sway over other people" -do they make worthy contenders to expand your attribute list?
ER: These are interesting ones. On the passion for the category, I agree that there is quite a bit of fluidity of network hubs based on their interests or passions. Category knowledge and enthusiasm is a big factor in who will get behind something. Sometimes hubs are in the right place at the right time. On the sway over other people, "hubs" by definition talk to more people. So there is an element of frequency. Their credibility perhaps as well is based on some of the other characteristics. I think how we have dealt with sway is to view it not as a characteristic but as an outcome, did their buzz actually spread.
BC: In your chapter 9 "It's a Small World, So What?" You have 10 principles outlined that drive buzz - any ones particularly interesting for today's economy?
ER - Two areas of study that I would love to look at more. The first is what I call implicit vs. explicit buzz. The social web allows me to support and implicitly recommend a brand without making a lot of effort. So what is the value of being on a My Space page for Adidas vs. having that conversation in real life. Does never ending friending online in social networks take away from buzz or make it easier to travel through weak ties? The other area I'm interested in is when the web allows the "wrong people" to take control of your buzz, perhaps it jumps across a category and they start wearing your stuff and not project the brand values and the whole idea of how to avoid it or work with that.
BC: The social web has produced a practitioner set that tends to sing from the same song sheet - be open and transparent vs. some buzz adherents who suggest keeping stuff somewhat secretive and creating social currency by seeding people - which bandwagon are you on?
EC: A lot of our beliefs about the world of buzz have been handed down from the world of entertainment or software, which likes the secrets (Easter Eggs) and seed strategy (sneak previews) and have people get pent up excited about a launch. Xbox, the iPod - these are hot and have high expectations. I think the rules are different for these brands vs. an average product like a CPG good. An average product and average companies don't create excitement for themselves easily. I believe for these goods, involving people openly and early is a better idea. One perfect example of not keeping things close to your chest, is the strategy used by Doritos, Nationwide and Chevrolet to promote their products aggressively before the Super Bowl, which according to Jim Nail turned into the best approach for stimulating post-game discussion.
BC: What's the biggest sin in practice by buzz marketers?
ER: Trying to apply this stuff without anything interesting to talk about. Marketers need to find an interesting or useful angle to talk about their stuff that actually helps people. Otherwise it doesn't matter what your approach is.
BC: Congrats on the book launch again, look forward to seeing more buzz about your buzz.
Ten reasons to pop in, say hi and learn something:
1) Breakfast, who doesn't like muffins, coffee and that fruit tray with a high density of strawberries? 2) New proprietary research back on all fronts - get the facts with the sizzle, why compromise on just one type of advice - get the inspiration with the perspiration-filled insight? 3) An intimate environment allows you to ask any question in front of a motivated group of 30 rather than than the short, glib answer in front of 400 of your industry brethren 4) Advice from Canada's Word of Mouth "Mike Holmes" - I'll show you how to do it right the first time, don't take the risk on a first time, Johnny-come-lately, expert 5) Networking opportunity with other progressive marketeers and other forward-leaning professionals 6) The key numbers - understand the 12 arguments on why word of mouth trumps traditional media in a
stressed economy, the 12 key types of word-of-mouth
marketing and when to use them, the 9 types of community and when to build them and the 36 basic reasons
why people talk 7) Myth-busting -so much bad information, old rules of thumbs, questionable activity and false bravado - let's strip away the hard outer shell and get to the nougat centre of progressive marketing/media 8) Customer-centricity - this is what your CEO cares about, not your new ad campaign - get qualified with a school of new tactics that get you closer to the front lines and thus, more valuable in the eyes of management 9) Examples, Examples, Examples - this is not just pretty powerpoint, we'll give you powerful real life examples (ours and others) and guidebook to take away back to the office 10) Did I mention coffee? Damn...hmmm.. how about a Get Out of Jail Free Card - a free 1/2 hour session with your truly in advance, in the midst of or after your next social grassroots effort
More news to follow on an executive level, grassroots marketing thinktanklater in this year, but for a practical guide and 101/201 version on how to start, plan, justify, seed, incubate, spread and measure a palette load of grassroots media/marketing, I may be biased but you won't find a better forum the first half of this year - so come join me for a decadent, chocolate filled croissant.
As a follow up to my post back in 2007 and presentation on the 36 Reasons Why We Buzz (inching up to 5,000 views), I have provided an elaboration on the different and sometimes strange reasons (to us anyway) on why customers, fans and influencers and stakeholders buzz stuff about 20 times per day.
The graphic above points to which camp these WOM attributes of your brand characteristics, customer/marketing experience provided and person/influencer interacted with fit. The matrix outlines from most brand/product centric to people-centric (from left to right) and goes from most internally motivated to most incentive-laden (from top to bottom).
Contrary to popular social media opinion, you simply just don't buzz about stuff or brands that are involved in conversations (although increasingly it helps). That denies a whole area of innovation, creativity, operational excellence, product design and brand dvelopment its fair shake. So, we've identified the 11 inescapable things about your brand or product that start the chatter, the 15 things about the experience shared with your customer/influencer that fire up recommendations and the 10 things about who the individual person is that's being influenced that drive passionate referral.
On each one of three camps, people can get jazzed for intrinsic, extrinsic and explicitly-based reasons.
Intrinsic WOM - "I believe, therefore I buzz" - in this form of word of mouth, people act oftentimes without the added effect of incentives or external appreciation - typically driven by a feeling of connection with the brand or group, a shared affiliation with the brand motives or deeply held belief about the favorable characteristics or values of the enterprise, brand, people involved or inititaive and/or an obligation to a cause or moral responsibility
Extrinsic WOM - "I will be recognized, therefore I buzz" - this type of word of mouth is driven by factors outside the person themselves and can include the non-monetary external incentives of: prospect of fame and being noticed, a feeling of exclusivity or being treated specially, an opportunity to display talents or creativity to a wider or well-heeled audience, a satisfaction of ego needs and/or an ability to achieve greater social connections and status
Explicit WOM-"I will get something, therefore I buzz" - this is a transactional relationship where the word of mouth generated is driven by some type of explicit reward received, whether that be hard and fast monetary* or product rewards, eliminating a problem, gaining expert knowedge and insider information or receiving the privledge of an aspirational or VIP experience - the idea of talking about your individual reward can be driven by an opportunity to gift/regift, bragging rights or helpful advice/inside scoops to others who might like to receive the same benefit
If you're curious, we've developed a 60 premium WOM survey at Agent Wildfire to tease out what kind of word of mouth building blocks is likely to drive your particular business. Just remember, frequently a successful word of mouth effort mines at least 5-6 of the above attributes.
* to be clear, Agent Wildfire does not support monetary rewards to drive word of mouth unless in rare siutuation where the request for performance (i.e. mystery shopping or content development) consumes a large amount ot time, effort and resources and substitutes for hiring staff to perform the same role
Stop it. Just stop it. I know what you're going to say client X. You want to have good control mechanisms over your web properties and that means for whatever reasons (legal, resources, money, brand purity, insert illogic here), you don't want to extend beyond the boundaries of your corporate website, perhaps an email list and maybe a hard fought Facebook page of some sort.
Fact is, you need to be everywhere. We like to have about 11 web extensions on our client initiatives beyond simply the corporate website and for Canadian purposes, we tend to go with:
- A community/campaign site extension to your main site (linked back and forth from your main site and so you can host a conversation vs. fight for attention in other spaces) - A community/campaign blog (with outreach and links to others) - A Facebook presence - typically group and well-targeted ads (pages and apps now tend to be a fool's game but we'll cover that in another post) - An SEO presence - Google, MSN and Yahoo ads (particularly at the start of campaign) - Flickr for photos - YouTube for video - Twitter for updates and conversation - Stumble Upon and/or Digg for bookmarking - Grassroots influencer media presence (our own sites or others that niche target your audience) - A campaign specific site (i.e. Last.fm for music, Linkedin for business pros) - A social media news release (an electronic form of the real one to support blogger outreach) - Widgets (for our inner sanctum of influencers to broadcast their participation)
Face it - the digital world is extremely fragmented. Although it may be a bit difficult to manage this footprint, you need to be optimizing your presence in every backyard not just your own.
To manage the flow, increasingly, we are hiring part-time community managers to specialize their work and chunk out this type of responsibility so our client or us don't crumble under the workload.
6S Marketing in Vancouver has just published results of a survey it did with over 10,000 Canadians that suggests how splintered our social media habits really are. Caveat upfront, the numbers are well-overstated vs. representative population (i.e. this study would say Twitter would have 15 million users in Canada, when it really has only likely 300,000).
We'll presume for arguments sake that the numbers were pulled from an early adopting influencer set, a professional database only and also that the numbers are wrong about equally.
Social Media Website Popularity Facebook 69% Twitter 47% LinkedIn 38% MySpace 20% Meetup 17%
Social Bookmarking Sites Popularity Digg 23% Del.icio.us 21% Stumble Upon 19% Technorati 15% Reddit 7% Magnolia 4% Y! Buzz 3%
Social Media Content Sharing Sites Popularity Youtube 38% Flickr 29% Last.fm 11% Vimeo 10% Metacafe 3%
Blogging Systems Popularity Wordpress 63% Blogger 34% Drupal 3% Typepad 2% Livejournal 1% Moveable Type 1% Expression Engine 1%
Although I would have liked to have seen other options analyzed (niche networks, RSS aggregators, types of Facebook presence, research/analytics users), it does give you an indication that once you get past the big 4 (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr), there is a long tail world of influence that has an incredibly passionate "snap" to it.
So please, I beg of you client X, please don't advocate the "one site fits all" - you're creating digital suicide that unfortunately given your lack of social media tentacles or voice, no one will hear.
I've usually taken a diplomatic tact when dealing with the traditional-minded world of media, marketing and research people but c'mon, enough is enough....if you can't be startled and motivate to act by a feather to the soles of your feet than maybe you need a blunt force blow to the head.
Trust me - from one who has spent tens of millions dollars on advertising and mainstream marketing in his lifetime, you are peddling fool's gold. The same people who believe a recession couldn't happen are the same ones ascribing increased sales to increased media weight - insanity.
Wake up. Campaigns rarely if ever build brands anymore, price-offs don't build sustainable consumption, shackling yourself to a brand identity manual is "paint by numbers" marketing that denies the reality of what has happened in the last decade to your consumer, marketplace and culture at large. Ask anybody under 27 years old in your department, they will tell you the harsh reality of what's happening - are you prepared to listen?
With the remote, expansion of channels, PVR, simultaneous multimedia consumption - I would evaluate a TV GRP being 20% of the benefit it was ten years ago. Plus it's at least twice as expensive.
Radio and newspapers are a dying game and whereas I have a lot of heart for well-produced and targeted magazines, who wants to read about stuff that is weeks old in a 24/7 game.
I don't mean to add insult to media injury - there are some fine journalists and media people out of work right now...but the model is irrevocably broken and not coming back. The idea of companies renting out space and being viewed as an interruption to the good content is a horribly outmoded concept.
Even on captive mediums, the communication is all wrong. Very few stop me in my tracks, provoke me to do something or invite me to learn more. I guarantee you if you drive past 20 billboards today and if one even gets you to think about the product being advertised, I would be surprised (yes, I know it's snowing but you should still be able to see them). We hate the bravado, don't trust the promise and likely worse, simply don't care about the entire impersonal selling approach.
Join the real game and stop watching the scoreboard. Although it may lack standards, be slow to scale, be apparently risky, may deny some of your strategic genius and require a new set of skills, word of mouth and all its different variants is the real deal.
Every Christmas, I personally experience the impending stress of December 24th and what to do about gifting.
Huddled amongst my other male brethren, I sprint through malls trying to find the right gift for admittedly really great people but with the least amount of time.
This year, we're working with a great client Fujifilm and have just launched something called GetontheFlist.com to alleviate those gifting worries.
We've let the program simmer and percolate a little through a number of street activities in Toronto and Vancouver but now we want to broadcast the message to as many people as possible that "you will never again have to experience the cold sweats, peril and shame of buying last minute gifts or feel the heat of receiving bad ones and subsequently regifting".
for the urban adventurous, we have a F list scavenger hunt with photo clues - you could find posters that lead you to four very sweet looking and feature-rich S100fs cameras valued at $700 each
- for the people who get misty over great memories of perfect gifts and notorious thoughts of gift disasters, we have the Best and Worst Gift ever contests where you can submit, vote and be awarded weekly Fujifilm prizes
- over the last three weeks, we've met thousands of people along the streets of Vancouver and Toronto our Fuji Foto Crew and larger than life F mascots...stop by and say hi, we'll give you an instant chance to win, take a memorable F photo and if you're interested, give you a free memory card
Sometimes in all the activity, we occasionally forget that Fujifilm actually has some really nice cameras - I've been tooling around with the Fujifilm S100fs camera and it is a beauty. Apparently I'm not alone, as there is an incredible amount of goodwill for the Fujifilm digital brand - research has shown that over 93% of Fujifilm camera users would eagerly recommend Fujifilm to others. We just need to spread ther word and let other people in on the secret this holiday season!
There is a whole bunch of other stuff that makes for a great buzzworthy holiday program. But as of today, you've only got 20 sleeps left so stop on by and get F listed and receive some really good odds to win great rewards and even better gifts.
Humans are herd animals, we never like to experience anything alone and perish the thought of doing something else while others are going in a different direction.
See if you agree with me on the top 20 human things that spread like wildfire below...I know I'm missing a few gems.
1) Colds/Flus - the average human gets 2-5 colds a year and are frequently affected two-to-four days after others are first exposed
2) Applause - nothing like a few well-placed plants to get a crowd clapping in synch
3) Opinions - the foundation of viral marketing rests on this assumption
4) Fashion - I'm not too sure why there isn't an Amazon for fashion but they could clean up based on influencer-led movements in style
5) Measles - one of the most communicable viruses in the world - 90% of household members who are not immune but are exposed to it end up contracting it
6) Fear -one only need to see our global economic meltdown, to see this piece of human psychology play out
7) Gossip/Scandal - Sarah Palin/Tina Fey, American Idol, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Oscar Night, Gawker - I rest my case
8) Stress - 78% belived Bush's State of the Union in 2007 was going in the right direction; now less than 2 years later, 83% believe the country is heading in the wrong direction
9) Negative Energy& Enthusiasm -misery loves company and everybody loves a party
10) Obesity - there is a 171% increased chance if a good friend increases weight, so will you..be forewarned
11) Yawning - 40-60% of people who hear talk about yawning, do it themsleves
12) Laughter - has more to do with social setting vs. humour, you are 30 times more likely to laugh socially than solitarily, in cross gender conversations, females laugh 126% more than males
13) Smiling - it only takes 14 muscles, is free and is good for you...why not?
14) Trends - the thesis behind the Tipping Point - small things make a big difference- some intriguing examples of air conditioners and faxes
15) Rhythm/Music Beat - who hasn't been toe-tapping and realize the person next to them is doing the same things
16) Goodwill - it's interesting when things go bad, humans capacity for pulling together
17) Referrals - an average person will tell 5 people after a good experience and 8 people after a bad one, the web allows an online savvy person to tell 13 friends and an influencer to tell 40
18) Violence/Litter - it's the Broken Windows theory - allow something to be degraded or debased around you and more of it will happen
19) Depression/Suicide - bridge jumping, subway jumpingand other forms of reported suicide have a contagious effect on the socially displaced, the young and people with a close association to the victims
20) Memes/Idioms - Where's the Beef?, Budweiser's Whassssssssup, Dove Evolution, Got Milk, Mastercard's Priceless, Apple's Think Different and Intel's mnemonic
Video clips at Ustream"Four hours ago feels like a day ago"....these were the first words I heard from the livestream of 4 comedians called The Imponderables who have forced themselves to sit on a couch in a closed in area of Now Lounge Toronto for ...an indefinite period of time based on you and your charity.
It is quite a Nascar accident on screen as after 8 hours - you can tell they are getting a litle squirrelly. Much like Howard Stern as well - you have to sift through a lot of dialogue to get to the funny stuff. One of neat things they've done is create a talk show format of bringing new people in as guests (our down the hallway neighbour John Dore made an early appearance).
It's a neat concept and cause - give more to charity for Sick Kids and they'll just
keep on sitting there. So in the Subservient Chicken tradition - challenge them to do something watch them here now.